By Stephen J. Thomas
MELBOURNE, September 4. A race-hardened Australian team of Matt Welsh, Jim Piper, Geoff Huegill and Ashley Callus broke the 4x100m medley relay world record at the Australian Short Course Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre tonight.
The team that had taken silver behind the USA at the Pan Pacs last week had one change: Ian Thorpe did not make an appearance here due to additional commitments in Japan. Instead Ashley Callus, the silver medalist in the 100 meter freestyle in Yokohama replaced the "Thorpedo" tonight. The Aussies clocked 3:28.12 to break the world mark by 0.88 seconds, set by Team USA at the World Championships in Moscow in April this year.
The new world record splits were:
Matt Welsh (50.95), Jim Piper (59.44), Geoff Huegill (50.61), Ashley Callus (47.12)
The previous record splits by Team USA were:
Aaron Piersol (52.17); Dave Denniston (58.56); Peter Marshall (51.93) and Jason Lezak (46.34)
Dorsal specialist Matt Welsh, who had already broken the world mark for 50m back on the first night of competition went out very fast, turned powerfully and held his form underwater to surface close — very close — to the 15-meter mark, and the judges didn’t blink. (In this case, the 15-meter mark was delineated by two white plastic witches' hats on either side of pool deck, which were impossible for competitors to see).
Welsh survived the ire of the judges this time, after being DQ’ed at Yokohama, touching well under Piersol’s split to set a new Commonwealth and national record. Breaststroker Jimmy Piper gave back over one second on the lead, but then world fly short course champ,
"skippy" Huegill, pushed the Aussies further in front, far enough for freestyler Callus to touched the pads in a new world record.
The relay time trial had been especially organized by Australian Swimming to attract local interest in the meet that followed directly after the Pan Pacific Championships. Unlike American swim fans, the Australian public had received six nights of live prime-time television coverage of the Yokohama Championships, so interest in this national meet was lessened, particularly without the appearance of multiple gold medal duo Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett (who is in the USA).
A similar time trial was also held during the Australian Short Course Champs in Perth last year in an attempt on the world record for the 800 freestyle relay. The Aussie team of Bill Kirby, Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim and Grant Hackett also set a new world record of 6:56.41 on that occasion.