By Ian Hanson
MELBOURNE, June 14. THREE emerging Aussie swim stars, who came ever so close to selection on the Sydney Olympic team last year, will continue their charge towards Athens in 2004, when the cream of Australia’s swimmers converge on Melbourne this weekend for the second Telstra Swimming Grand Prix.
Medley swimmer Grant McGregor and breaststrokers Simon Cowley and Jim Piper were considered among the
"unlucky ones" during last year’s Olympic Trials in Sydney.
While the big names basked in the glory of the Games – McGregor, Cowley and Piper went about picking up the pieces. McGregor finished third in both the 200 and 400 individual medleys at the high powered Olympic Trials; Piper was third in the 200m breaststroke and Cowley, the Pan Pacific Champion from 1999, was second in the 100m breaststroke and fourth in the 200 meters.
All three do not want to experience what they went through in 2000 – when their dreams were shattered.
Cowley’s quote sums up all their feelings: "I’m not going to miss next time!"
Cowley and McGregor have hit back with vengeance – winning Australian championships this year to make the Telstra Dolphins team for July’s Ninth FINA World Championships in Fukuoka.
Piper was again third to Cowley in the 100m and Harrison in the 200 meter breaststroke finals at this year’s Nationals in Hobart, missing World Championship Selection in the 200 meters by an agonizing 0.09.
But the 19-year-old from Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest, has hit a purple-patch – twice breaking the Australian record for the 200 meters breaststroke – at the East Asian Games in Osaka last month and again on the Australian team’s Mare Nostrum Tour in Europe this past week.
Piper took the Australian record from Harrison with his 2:12.84 in Osaka, lowered it again in Canet to 2:12.40 and went within a fraction of the time again in Rome (2:12.42) and Monte Carlo (2:12.41) earlier this week.
The lanky Piper has claimed some impressive scalps – including the Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists – in times which would have won him Olympic silver last year.
While Ian Thorpe’s near world record breaking performances in his unbeaten 200-400 meter freestyle charge through Europe have been the shining performances, Piper and McGregor have joined him on the winners dais.
McGregor, who like Cowley, trains at the AIS in Canberra chalked up two wins and a second from three 400 IM starts – twice beating Canada’s Olympic bronze medalist Curtis Myden – clocking 4:21.78 to beat Italy’s Lorenzo Sirigu and Myden in the final meet of the Tour in Monte Carlo.
The Mare Nostrum tourists, Ian Thorpe, William Kirby, Todd Pearson, Jim Piper, Rob Van Der Zant, Ray Hass, Grant McGregor and Antony Matkovich will all arrive in Melbourne late tonight ready to contest Saturday morning’s first heat session at 10am.
Finals will be swum at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre on Saturday evening at 6pm and Sunday afternoon at 3pm.