BRISBANE, January 4. OLYMPIANS Grant Hackett and Leisel Jones turned in the fastest times at the Queensland Open and Age championships in Brisbane today, as the Australian state championships got under way.
A shaven-headed Hackett declared 2004 was not a time to look pretty but to swim fast at the Olympics after producing a stunning first swim of the New Year. He took the 400m freestyle at the Brisbane meet in a time — 3:46.79 — that would have earned bronze at the 2000 Olympics.
Hackett, the 1500m world record holder, easily disposed of AIS-based Craig Stevens and Brisbane's Nick Sprenger in the first open final of the state meet. The time was two seconds faster than his time at the Olympics in Sydney.
The 23-year-old was pleased with his performance and credited improved
"finesse" for his easy ride through the water.
"I just wanted to get into the 3:40s tonight and to do a 46 only half suited up is great," he said.
"It's really great I'm just trying to focus on my stroke a little bit more.
"I know I'm tough enough in training to grind it out time and again, but whether I hold my stroke together at the end of the race rather than panicking is an important factor.
"That finesse has got to come into it more, rather than be an animal and keep up with Ian (Thorpe) or (Michael) Phelps. Just focus on myself and keep up my stroke.
Hackett said in the past he had struggled to keep his stroke at the end of the 200 and 400m events but his improved style was paying off.
"I've been a little bit primitive you could say," he said. "Just try and attack it and then forgotten about the stroke.
Meanwhile, Lethal Leisel Jones produced the top women's performance of the meet thus far.
Jones snared the 100m breaststroke with a Queensland All-comers' (open) record of 1:07.42, beating Samantha Riley's 1:07.66. Jones had looked at the state record list and noted Riley's record below her Australian and Queensland breaststroke records.
"I wanted the three (records). It looked a bit funny having Sam's time on the bottom," the 100m breaststroke world record-holder said.
"It is a good swim for a state title given the preparation I have had and not being fully tapered."
Since she began training at race pace three times a week beginning last September, Jones has broken two short course world records (100m and 200m) at the FINA World Cup in December.
"I feel much stronger in the last 25m of each race. It is good I have the strength to come back, so it (race pace training) is obviously paying off," Jones said. "There has been a change about how strong I feel and in every race it shows."
Jones's clubmate Geoff Huegill claimed the 50m butterfly state title in 23.95.
"It is good to be able to get in the water every day and enjoy it," Huegill said.
Petria Thomas continued to gather condition with wins in the 400m freestyle (4:14.31) and 50m butterfly (26.99).
At the Victorian Championships in Melbourne, Michael Klim showed signs he is making progress in his latest comeback. Brett Hawke handed new teammate Klim the first victory in his comeback from shoulder surgery after Hawke was disqualified from the 50m freestyle.
Hawke, who moved from Sydney to join Ian Pope's squad in Melbourne in September, touched the wall in 22.93, ahead of Klim's 23.39. But Hawke was disqualified for jumping the start, awarding Klim the gold medal.
It was the first individual event of the championships for Klim, who will also tackle the 100m freestyle.
Sydney middle-distance star Elka Graham displayed her sprinting prowess to claim the 100m freestyle. Graham, who suffered a dramatic collapse on the medal dais at the world championships last year, held off Victorian pair Shayne Reese and Danni Miatke to win in 56.10sec.
Miatke returned to the pool shortly afterwards to win the final of the 50m butterfly in 27.20, ahead of world championship team member Felicity Galvez (27.87) and Elizabeth Coster (27.95).
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jim Piper added to his win in the 100m breaststroke with a comfortable victory in the 200m breaststroke. The New South Wales visitor touched the wall in 2:14.86 to finish almost four seconds clear of Victorian Brenton Rickard (2:18.64), who also finished second to Piper in the 100m breaststroke.
Matt Welsh bounced back from his unexpected loss to teenager Andrew Lauterstein in the 100m backstroke on Saturday night, qualifying fastest for the final of the 50m butterfly.
Welsh, who set a world record on his way to winning the 50m butterfly title at the world championships in Barcelona in July, clocked 25.24 to claim the middle lane ahead of Jason Cohen (25.25) and 16-year-old Lauterstein (25.35).
West Australian teenager Travis Nederpelt survived a tight finish to win his second event of the championships in the 400m freestyle. The world championship team member finished just 0.12 seconds clear of Victorian Felipe Araujo in 3:55.75.