By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, March 27. THE big guns were again out in force on the sixth night of the Australian Championships but this time not against each other. First it was Grant Hackett shooting for the 800 free world record held by Ian Thorpe; then it was the Thorpedo’s turn to show that he could at the very least set a decent PR in the 200 IM.
Men’s 800m freestyle:
Hackett had been very confident leading into the race that he would go all-out to swim under Thorpe’s WR 7:39.16. Thorpe had skipped this event to concentrate on shorter distances, so it was Hackett against the clock in this race.
Hackett certainly looked impressive from the first lap, splitting just over one-second under Thorpe’s 2001 world record. The crowd sensed that the record was in jeopardy as the 22-year-old Queenslander maintained his sub-world record pace until he flipped at the 600-meter mark. The turn looked a little sloppy and it was clear that there was not enough gas in the tank — at least on this occasion — to keep pace with Thorpe’s powerful last 200. Hackett touched in 7:44.91, the seventh fastest swim all-time over the distance.
Thorpe: 55.02, 1:52.93, 2:51.65, 3:50.54,
4:49.43, 5:48.66, 6:45.93, 7:39.16 WR
Hackett: 53.96, 1:52.00, 2:50.40, 3:49.15,
4:48.29, 5:47.77, 6:47.49, 7:44.91
Stephen Penfold, Hackett’s training partner from the Miami club on the Gold Coast was a distant second in a PR 7:58.27, making him the seventh fastest Aussie performer. Grant Cleland from Sydney took the bronze in 8:09.66.
Hackett said after the race he knew that in order to have a chance at the record he had to go all out from the start to counter Thorpe’s trademark power finish (after all, Hackett clocked his fastest time when Thorpe set the record at the world champs in 2001).
“At the 600-mark I was really hurting, the kind of hurt when you know it means you can’t push any harder,” he said.
Men’s 200m IM:
You can only expect excellence when Ian Thorpe approaches a race and his performance in his ‘new’ event — the 200 IM — this time matched and perhaps even exceeded his expectations.
Thorpe was under the world record split after the fly (26.07 to 26.17) and remained there after the dorsal leg (56.53 to 56.61). But breaststroke proved his Achilles heel, as he lost over two seconds before powering home to touch in 2:00.11.
The time broke the Commonwealth and national record set by Matthew Dunn in 1998 by 0.15. The swim placed Thorpe equal to eighth on the all-time performers list with American Dave Wharton. Defending champion Justin Norris made up ground on Thorpe in the breaststroke to be only 0.16 behind but was never going to catch the 100 gold medalist in the freestyle leg to take silver in 2:01.19 (not far outside his PR 2:00.91) with the bronze going to 19-year-old South Aussie, Mitchell Bacon in PR 2:03.24 (sixth fastest Aussie performer).
Thorpe said after his race, “I have a little bit of work to do before the World Championships, but I’m really happy with that swim. I didn’t expect to drop quite that much.”
2000 Olympic champion in this event, Italian visitor Massi Rosolino, who has been training in Melbourne with Ian Pope, swam a fast 1:59.94 in the prelims yesterday.
Women’s 100m freestyle:
Australian record-holder Jodie Henry looked the goods tonight when she turned second in 26.41 just 0.10 behind a fast Libby Lenton, and her training partner Alice Mills (26.85). Henry, the Pan Pac silver medalist behind American superstar Nat Coughlin, has a powerful back end to her 100 and asserted her superiority over the field to touch in a 54.69 just short of her Aussie record 54.55.
Lenton held on well for the silver and an individual race in Barcelona, in another PR 55.02 (fourth best Aussie performer). Lenton has taken almost one second off her personal best coming into this meet. Sixteen-year-old Mills snatched the bronze in 55.59 (short of her PR 55.15 in the prelims) from dual Olympian, 26-year-old Sarah Ryan (55.73).
Elka Graham, the winner of the 200-400 free double, finished fifth in 55.95.
Women’s 200m breaststroke:
Leisel Jones continued her top form tonight but was still short of the national record 2:24.76, clocking a fast 2:25.74 to take her third consecutive title. As was the case in the semis, the 17-year-old Queenslander was again under world-record pace for the first two laps. Her splits: 32.49, 1:09.29, 1:47.37, 2:25.74.
Victorian 18-year-old, Sarah Kasoulis, swam a brilliant final lap to take silver in a PR 2:28.42 (seventh best Aussie performer). Brooke Hanson, the 100-meter silver medalist, put up a brave fight to take bronze in 2:29.02 having strained a hamstring muscle earlier in the day.
Men’s 200m backstroke:
Australian record-holder, Matt Welsh, won his third title in this event comfortably taking the race after turning in 57.48 — over a second ahead of his nearest rival, Ray Hass (58.54).
Welsh pulled further away at the 150 before coasting to his third title in this event in a very solid 1:58.95. Hass, ranked fourth globally in this event last year, kept his form to touch in 1:59.98 from fast-finishing 100 meter silver medallist Josh Watson, 2:00.94. Hass won this title in 2002 while Watson took it out in 1998.
Men’s 50m freestyle:
Australian record-holder Brett Hawke was fastest qualifier in 22.62 ahead of David Carter (22.75 PR and eighth all-time Aussie performer) and 100-meter gold medalist Ashley Callus (22.95).
Todd Pearson 23.19 and Andrew Dyson 23.19 followed.
Men’s 100m butterfly:
Geoff Huegill 53.82
Adam Pine 53.88
Jason Cohen 54.20
Shane Fielding 54.67
Josh Taylor 54.84
Women’s 50m butterfly:
Petria Thomas 27.04
Libby Lenton 27.35
Nicole Irving 27.37
Jordana Webb 27.47
Melanie Houghton 27.53
Women’s 200m backstroke:
Frances Adcock 2:14.73
Zoe Tonks 2:15.20
Karina Leane 2:15.54
Kelly Tucker 2:17.51
Tay Zimmer 2:17.55