By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, March 24. LEISEL Jones again lowered her Australian record for the one-lap again in tonight’s 100 breaststroke final, splitting 31.50 at the 50, but just failed to repeat her semi-final performance when she equaled her record of 1:07.04 set last night.
The 17-year-old Queenslander had been considered slow off the blocks in the past, but it is obvious her physical development through increased dryland work these past six months has paid dividends.
Women's 200 Breaststroke:
It seemed very likely to this correspondent that Jones was set to dip under the 1:07 mark after she turned 0.04 under her time last night (Penny Haynes had gone a 31.16 split in her ’99 world record at this pool). The dual Olympic silver medalist pulled away from the field as she motored under the flags but then clearly mistimed her finish, only to match her time of the previous night.
What is clear is that Jones will go faster. And perhaps ‘Lethal’ Leisel can learn from the great South African Penny Heyns, who set world marks in the 50-100-200 at the Pan Pacs here in 1999. Heyns repeatedly mentioned at press conferences during her amazing meet, how she placed great importance on counting her strokes during her races.
Jones confirmed her mistake after the race saying, "I was unsure whether to take another stroke but decided to go for a very long glide. It’s a little disappointing, but at least I equaled my time from last night."
Second to the wall and off to Barcelona was 25-year-old Brooke Hanson, who clocked a PR 1:08.78 (6th fastest all-time by an Aussie). The bronze went to Tarnee White, a Sydney Olympic finalist in this event in 1:09.48, well outside her PR 1:07.99.
Men’s 200 freestyle:
World record-holder Ian Thorpe cruised to another apparently effortless win over archrival Grant Hackett, recording 1:45.35, which ties the 8th fastest swim all-time. Hackett clocked 1:46.19, a little off his best of 1:45.84 from Yokohama last year. Seventeen-year-old Queensland rookie Nick Sprenger came home strongly to take bronze in 1:49.41. The slowest finalist in the race was Hackett’s training partner Stephen Penfold, who clocked a very solid 1:50.21 suggesting the Aussie 800 relay will still be tough to beat.
Only Olympic gold medalist, Dutchman Peiter vd Hoogenband, has clocked a single time faster than Thorpe tonight, when he won the Euro champs last year in Berlin in 1:44.89. However, ever the perfectionist, Thorpe was clearly disappointed with his time and his race tonight and had hoped to give his PR — the world record 1:44.06 — a nudge.
Hackett also said after the race he felt he was capable of going 1:45 low and had rushed his warm-up due to confusion over the race start time. What was evident in both the 400 and 200 races is that Hackett has certainly been able to stay closer to Thorpe than in the recent past and lost little ground on the world record-holder over the final lap. Hackett confirmed this and said he clocked his fastest-ever final 50-meter split in the 400 free on the first night of competition.
Thorpe said after his race: "I’ve had a good preparation so I thought I’d swim a lot faster than that and I was disappointed. I look back on the race now and there were a few things I could have done a little better. In different parts of my race I was a bit soft, I went a bit easy on myself, which you can’t afford to do. I set very high standards for myself so when I feel good and ready to perform well, I find it quite frustrating."
Despite the relative disappointment in his times for the 400 and 200 free, Thorpe felt ready to perform well and do a PR in the 100 free. His PR stands at 48.73, set at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester last August.
Men’s 100 backstroke:
World champion Matt Welsh was clinical in winning his fourth consecutive 100 backstroke title when he led all the way to touch in a tidy 54.49 (split 26.18) ahead of successful comebacker Josh Watson (54.77) and promising 20-year-old Andrew Burns (PR 56.09).
Women’s 100 backstroke:
Giaan Rooney, the world champ for the 200 free, took her second title in this event, having won back in 1999. Rooney has only been back in the pool for a couple of months after considering retiring after injury and illness reflected in a disappointing 2002. The 20-year-old Queenslander was encouraged to get back to the pool after national record-holder Dyana Calub retired suddenly in January.
Rooney was clear leader at the turn, splitting 30.30, and held on to touch in reasonable 1:02.60 from 18-year-old Melissa Morgan (1:02.93) and Queenslander Belinda Nevell (1:03.14).
Women’s 1500 freestyle:
Title-holder Belinda Wilson cleared away from Pan Pac finalist Amanda Pascoe, to record a solid win in the 30-lap race, clocking a PR 16:30.25 to Pascoe’s 16:32.36. Wilson had already taken the bronze in the 400 free on the first day of competition. Sixteen-year-old Sarah Paton took bronze in 16:37.70
Women’s 200 freestyle:
Elka Graham, winner of the 400 free on the first night of competition, looked very comfortable in her swim, clocking the fastest qualifying time of 2:00.44. Heidi Crawford, coached by Pierre La Fontaine at the AIS in Canberra, has given herself a good chance of grabbing a place on the national team by qualifying second with a PR 2:01.09, ahead of 400 free silver medalist, Linda MacKenzie (2:01.44) and Olympic silver medalist Kirsten Thomson (2:01.63).
Men’s 50 breaststroke:
Twenty-year-old Queenslander Mark Riley took 0.14 off Phil Rogers seven-year-old Australian record when he touched the wall in an excellent 28.26. Another new face, Victorian Brenton Rickard, 19, clocked his second PR today to be next into the final (28.49) followed by Nathan Crook (28.86) and the 31-year-old veteran Phil Rogers (29.18).
Men’s 200 butterfly:
Olympic bronze medalist and defending title-holder Justin Norris led the qualifiers in at time of 1:59.01 from AIS based Josh Krogh (1:59.59) and 17-year-old Tarvis Nederpelt (2:00.63).