Barcelona - South Africa's star sprinter, Roland Schoeman, set the tone for some exciting swimming in the opening heats of the Mare Nostrum leg at the Sant Andreu Pool in Barcelona Saturday morning.
Schoeman looked solid enough to end just one-hundredth of a second behind top seed Rafael Munoz in the men's 50m butterfly who touched in 24.31sec.
But the former world record holder in this event and the first man in the world to break 23 seconds, will have to make sure there are no mistakes if he wants to beat the home advantage Munoz enjoys.
Former world champion Gerhard Zandberg was in a relaxed mood before his 50m backstroke where he ended in fourth place for the final, just 0,38sec behind Japan's top seed Junya Koga with a 25.90sec swim.
Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos both made it through to their finals where they are also in for a tough battle.
Van der Burgh ended in third spot for the final behind Romania's Dragos Agache (1:01.84) and Aussie Christian Sprenger (1:02.01) in the 100m breaststroke.
A victory here will certainly give him the confidence he needs for the World Championships.
Le Clos ended in fifth place after the heats of the 200m butterfly where Austrian Dinko Jukic showed his strength in 1:57.84 with Hungarian Bence Biczo next in 1:58.07, and the Japanese duo Takeishi Matsuda (1:58.41) and Ryusuke Sakata (1:59.18) - all ahead of his 1:59.78. This sets the stage for an excellent final.
As expected, Kathryn Meaklim challenged well to make it through to the final of the women's 400m individual medley.
Meaklim "was surprised at the pace required to make the final" with a 4:50.68. Heading the line-up for the final is Spain's Mireira Belmonte who should win comfortably.
Two encouraging performances came from youngsters Jessica Liss and Myles Brown. Both made it through to the B finals of the 200m breaststroke and 400m freestyle respectively.
Liss was smiling after her 2:33.74 as she "was faster than my time at senior nationals". Brown finished his 400m freestyle with a sound 3:58.62 to end ninth and head the B final.
"The big guns did well and are looking good for our first day," said national head coach Graham Hill.
The finals get under way at 4pm Saturday afternoon.