Aussie Champs End With a Bang

By Stephen J. Thomas

SYDNEY, March 29. WORLD record-holder Grant Hackett capped an excellent meet when he cruised to his seventh consecutive title in the 1500 meters clocking 14:47.07 – the twelfth time he has been under the 15-minute mark in his signature event.

Despite the fact the 22-year-old Queenslander was swimming his eleventh race of the meet, his time was the 6th fastest all-time. In fact, his coach Denis Cotterell had told the distance king he was happy for him to take it easy tonight given he has another 1500 in the US in eight days, but Cotterell said it was up to him.

Hackett said after the race: “it was great to finish on a high this week with a swim under 15-minutes and not feel too fatigued.” Given only the great Kieren Perkins has been under 14:50 beside Hackett, it was simply an amazing performance. The two Aussies now hold all ten all-time swims over the distance, Hackett has seven, and Perkins three.

Tonight, yet another Aussie closed in on the 15-minute barrier when 22-year-old AIS based Craig Stevens cut just over 6-seconds off his previous PR to touch in 15:03.20, to easily take the silver. Stevens chose to skip the 800 free which ran back-to-back with the 1500 in order to make an impact here tonight and indeed his time would have ranked third behind Hackett and American Erik Vendt in 2002. Stevens will have added responsibility at the Dual Meet, as he will replace Thorpe in the 400 free as well as swimming the 1500.

Hackett’s 20-year-old training partner Stephen Penfold took the bronze in a PR 15:23.64.

Hackett also made mention that he thought that he and Stevens were ready to go one-two against the Yanks in the 1500 at the ‘Duel' Meet in the US in just over a week. Obviously Hackett is one Aussie that is keen to compete!

Men’s 50 backstroke:
Matt Welsh slashed an amazing 0.47 off his Australian record to touch in 25.14, the 6th fastest swim all-time and just 0.15 outside the world record set by the dashing Lenny Krayzelberg in this pool at the Pan Pacs in ’99. Ethan Rolff took the silver in 26.13 and Josh Taylor the bronze in 26.59. Josh Watson, who equaled his PR 25.66 in the prelims, did not swim the final due to injury but made the World Champs team on the basis of his second in the 100 back.

Women’s 50 freestyle:
Only recently turned eighteen, Libby Lenton continued her meteoric ride to prominence in Australian women’s swimming with a world-class 25.08, slashing 0.21 off Jodie Henry’s Australian record and placing her equal 11th global all-time performer in this event. Only two Americans, Dara Torres 24.63 and Amy Van Dyken 24.87 have swum faster.

Amazingly Lenton’s PR at the end of 2002 stood a 25.93 which did not place her in the top ten in Australia. Now she has the national record. SwimInfo first noted her performance in taking the silver in this event behind short course world record-holder Swede Therese Alshammar at the World Cup meet in Melbourne last December and we reported her sweep of the 50-100 free and fly events at the Queensland Open champs in January.

Lenton moved to Swiss-born Stephan Widmar at the Valley Pool in Brisbane late last year after finishing high school and it was only then that she committed to increasing her training load. Her response to the training suggests she will certainly continue to improve by Barcelona and beyond.

Widmar was given his first opportunity by head women’s coach Scott Volkers at a time when Volkers was working with Aussie greats Susan O’Neil and Sam Riley. Tonight Widmar and Lenton both were selected on the world championship team.

Sixteen-year-old Alice Mills also went under the old Australian record taking silver in 25.26, and placing her 22nd global all-time performer beating the former record-holder Jodie Henry who touched in 25.41. Sophie Edington, better know for her backstroke, was just 0.02 behind Henry in 25.43 placing her 4th all-time Aussie performer. These four teenagers are now Australia’s all-time fastest sprinters.

Men’s 400 IM:
It was the old hands from the AIS of Justin Norris and Trent Steed that fought out this event. Norris the Olympic 200 fly bronze medalist, led after the first 100 but Steed moved ahead in the dorsal leg and maintained his lead through the breaststroke, but Norris pulled him back by the first half of the free and swept passed in the final lap to win in 4:17.30 to Steed’s 4:19.10.

South Aussie teenager Mitchell Bacon took the bronze in 4:23.56 to match the one he won in the 200 IM.

Women’s 50 breaststroke:
Brooke Hanson, the silver medalist in the 100 breast, started brilliantly and held onto her lead in a PR 31.52 just 0.02 outside the Australian record set by Leisel Jones in the 100 final earlier in the week. Jones, who has been suffering from flu symptoms over the last couple of days, was slowest off the blocks to touch 31.72, with 200 silver medalist Sarah Kasoulis third in a PR 31.96.

Women’s 400 IM:
Aussie record-holder Jenny Reilly won her 5th consecutive title in this event with a time of 4:44.77 (well outside her Australian record 4:40.84) and had to fight all the way to hold off a fighting 17-year-old Jessica Abbott who got within 0.46 of the Pan Pac gold medalist after the breaststroke leg (300-mark). But the experience told and Abbott finished with the silver in 4:47.35, the bronze going to Yvette Rodier 4:52.17.

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