By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, May 14. IAN Thorpe continued to amaze the swimming world with another mighty performance in the semi-final of the 200m free tonight. His time, 1:45.69, slashed .31 of a second off the record he set at the Pan Pacific Championships last August.
Unlike last night in the 400m final, Thorpe paced himself more evenly, saving the final 50m to unleash a powerful burst (26.57) to again leave Grant Hackett in his wake and break his own world record for the second time in two days.
Thorpe’s world record splits tonight:
50 m. 100 m. 150 m. 200 m
24.97 52.04 1:19.12 1:45.69
His splits for his previous record, on August 24, 1999:
24.92 52.01 1:18.95 1:46.00
An incredible six qualifiers for tomorrow’s final went under 1:49 for the distance, highlighting the awesome strength of the Aussie 800m freestyle relay team.
Geoff Huegill set the tone for the evening's competition by helping himself to a new world-record in the first final of the night. The easy-going Queenslander powered down the pool to touch in 23.60, breaking Russian Denis Pankratov’s 1996 world-mark of 23.68 for the 50m butterfly. He said after the race his improvement – half-a-second over the 50m distance -should translate to a better performance in the 100m, where he'll be facing Michael Klim, the world record-holder.
The 1999 Pan Pac 400m IM champion, Matthew Dunn, was beaten into second by twenty-year-old Justin Norris, but still made his third Olympic team. Norris, who is coached by Mark Regan at the Australian Institute of Sport, took the lead in his favored butterfly leg and held it throughout the race to record a personal best 4:16.23 and move to 12th fastest performer all-time. Dunn finished in an excellent 4:16.50 soon after contesting the 200m freestyle semi-final.
Another veteran, 29 year-old Phil Rogers, also qualified for his third Olympics, winning the 100m breaststroke in a relatively slow 1:02.59.
Petria Thomas (58.43) beat Susie O’Neill (58.71) for the first time in a final of the 100m butterfly at an Australian Championship, but failed to break the 58-second mark she just missed in the semi-finals (58.05). O’Neill, who had won the event at the national championships for ten straight years, recorded a personal best. Her time moved her up to 10th all-time performer, just ahead of American Misty Hyman.
Sarah-Jane D’Arcy, also coached by Mark Regan, swam a controlled race to beat Kasey Giteau (4:12.27) and Rachel Harris (4:12.32) in the 400m freestyle. D’Arcy showed some of her potential to record a personal best, 4:11.60. Former world champion and Barcelona medalist, Hayley Lewis, finished fourth in 4:14.47. But her favored event, the 800m freestyle, will come later in the meet.
Dyana Calub showed she is fast becoming a force in women’s backstroke when she won the 50m in 28.86, breaking the Australian and Commonwealth record she set yesterday by 0.03. Giaan Rooney finished second in an excellent 28.96. These times place the swimmers as the fourth and fifth all-time performers over the non-Olympic event. Calub also qualified fastest for the 100m backstroke final tomorrow in 1:01.71, again ahead of Rooney (1:02.56). California based Elli Overton, was fourth fastest qualifier in 1:03.61.
Fourteen-year-old breaststroke sensation, Leisel Jones, qualified fastest for the 100m final tomorrow in 1:08.82. Samantha Riley, the Australian record-holder, qualified seventh and appears to have only a slim chance to gain selection, having only recently recovered from a kidney infection.
Matt Welsh broke his Australian record for the 100m backstroke set at the Pan Pacs last year, going under the 55-second barrier for the first time. Welsh recorded 54.58, ahead of Josh Watson (55.19), to qualify for the final. The times rank them second and third behind American Neil Walker this year, with world record-holder, Lenny Krayzelburg, yet to record a time.