By Kurt Hanson
SYDNEY, April 10. AUSTRALIA'S future domination of international freestyle events looks to be in some exciting hands with outstanding performances by two teenagers on night two of the Australian Age Swimming Championships at the Sydney Aquatic Centre tonight.
Sixteen-year-old Queenslander Nicholas Sprenger, and 13-year-old NSW country schoolboy Nic Donald both scored impressive victories in their respective 200 metres freestyle finals – in front of "the man" himself, Ian Thorpe – on hand to cheer on his own SLC Aquadot teammates.
Donald, who in January this year broke Thorpe's 13-year's Australian 200m freestyle record, lowered his own record tonight, to 1:57.82.
When asked about Thorpe, the spritely teenager from Newcastle said he had great admiration for Australia's superfish but asked not to be compared with the world's greatest swimmer, saying: "I really admire Ian as an athlete, but if I'm going to make my mark in the swimming world then I just want to be known as Nic Donald."
But unlike Thorpe, "big Nic" has his eyes set firmly on Grant Hackett and the 1500 metres freestyle.
"I actually want to swim the 1500 metres freestyle in the future," said Donald, who has emerged under the tutelage of experienced East Maitland coach Bob Lawson.
Sprenger, coached by 1982 Commonwealth Games representative Michael Bohl at the Valley Pool in Brisbane, clocked an impressive 1:51.32 to win his second gold medal of the meet.
The lanky youngster won the 400 metres freestyle last night and went beyond expectations to post a performance nothing short of classy tonight.
It was a time which would have placed him sixth in the Australian open final and just 0.62 away from a place on Australia's Commonwealth Games team and a performance which had National Youth coach Leigh Nugent rubbing his hands.
"We've got a couple of live ones here," said Nugent, the man in charge of Australia's youth development. "I think the performances of these two youngsters and a host of other kids, like the Chandler girls, gives Australia a very exciting future."
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games "baby" Alice Mills picked up her third gold medal of the championships in the girls 15 years 50 metres freestyle. The girl who barnstormed her way on to the Manchester team, clocked 26.06 in a Chandler trifecta with club mates, Nadine Loof (26.51) and Clair Barrett (26.79) winning the silver and bronze.
Mills, soon backed up to contest the girls 15 years 100 metre butterfly where she was touched out by another talented teenager Jessicah Schipper (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton) club in Queensland.
Schipper, a training partner of world champions, Geoff Huegill and Leisel Jones has an extremely strong stroking resemblance to that of Australia's "Madame Butterfly," Susie O'Neill, and should be another youngster to look out for in the near future.