By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, March 25. LOOKING beyond the disappointment of freestyle giants Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett in relation to their "slow" times in the 200 free last evening, the bunch of new guys that stood up in the final is worth a closer look.
But first let's revisit the "big guns"!
Last night Thorpe swam 1:45.35, which ties two of the classic swims of the flying Dutchman, Pieter vd Hoogenband, at the Sydney Olympics. Hoogie clocked the same time to break Thorpe's WR in the semi-final and then repeated the time in the final to take gold ahead of the Thorpedo (equal 8th fastest swims all-time).
Thorpe set the current WR 1:44.06 at the World Champs in 2001, but has not been within half-a-second since, although he has seven of the top ten all-time best, Hoogie has the other three.
Grant Hackett became only the third man to go under 1:46 at the Pan Pacs last August, clocking 1:45.84 improving on his 1:46.11 at the World Champs in 2001. So his time last night was his 3rd best — 1:46.19 being not far off the pace for the world record-holder over 1500 free.
Now let's look at the rest of the field.
3rd Nick Sprenger (17) 1:49.41PR
4th Anthony Matkovich (25) 1:49.48 PR
5th Jason Cram (20) 1:49.55 PR
6th Craig Stevens (22) 1:49.70 PR
7th Ray Hass (25) 1:50.15
8th Stephen Penfold (20) 1:50.21PR
Only Ray Hass, who was out of the pool for much of last season, missed his PR (1:49.71). The rest of the field swam PR's last night and all would have ranked in the world top 40 last year! Craig Stevens and Jason Cram were part of the winning Aussie 800 free relay at the Pan Pacs in Yokohama (with Thorpe and Hackett) adequately filling the void left by an injured Michael Klim and retired Bill Kirby (the world record team from Fukuoka 2001). Seventeen-year-old Queenslander Nick Sprenger, from the Commercial Club in Brisbane, was the real surprise taking his first open medal from lane 8.