HOPES THAT backstroke champion Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai would kick-start Hong Kong's Olympic qualification effort with a morale-boosting time never materialised at the World Swimming Championships in Barcelona on Monday. Tsai, a local record holder in six events, appeared set to smash her own 100-metre backstroke record after spending the past year training with Olympic medallists and world record holders in California. But the former Diocesan Girls' School student fell half a second short of her personal best, recording a time of 1 minute 3.93 seconds, nearly two seconds outside the slowest semi-final qualifier. It placed her 27th out of 60 in the event rankings. Germany's Antje Buschschulte won the gold medal in 1 min 0.61 secs. Nerves appear to be hampering the performance of the young Hong Kong squad in Spain. It was expected that Liu Ka-lei or Suen Ka-yi would break Liu's local 100m breaststroke record (1 min 13.41 secs). But Liu, local schoolgirl swimmer of the year, was nearly two seconds off her best and Suen a second slower than that. Australian Leisel Jones grabbed the gold medal in a world record 1 min 6.37 secs. Only Fai Yau-sun competed in men's events on Monday, and he was unable to threaten Alex Fong Lik-sun's three-year-old local record (59.71 secs) in the 100m backstroke. Fai timed 1 min 0.87 secs. American Aaron Peirsol won gold with a championship record time of 54.28 seconds. Overall, three world records tumbled on an action-packed night at the world championships. Australians Matt Welsh (50m butterfly) and Jones claimed the first two, while Japan's Kosuke Kitajima (100m breaststroke) concluded the hectic spree with the third. Nervous moments for SAR team Hong Kong squad member Alex Chung Kwok-leung's Barcelona diary. July 21: Yesterday (Sunday, July 20)was the first day of the competition. Nobody in the SAR team did well. I swam in the 400m freestyle, and had hoped to meet the Olympic standard. But I swam three seconds slower than my personal best. Maybe the whole team is too nervous because others did poorly, too. Nobody met the Olympic standard. Ian Thorpe, the Aussie star, won the gold medal in the 400m freestyle, beating his teammate Grant Hackett. Today (Monday, July 21) might be better because Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai could meet the Olympic standard (we all hope), and this would give team morale a boost. More races are coming soon and we all hope Hong Kong is praying for us and supporting us.