By Stephen J.Thomas
SYDNEY, May 17 – SUSIE O’Neill’s has come close to the great Mary T. Meagher’s, 19-year-old 200 meter butterfly record several time in the past, just failing to keep pace over the telling last 50 meters. Tonight with a capacity crowd of over 10,000 willing her on, the 26-year-old finally got the monkey off her back to touch in 2:05.81.
O’Neill’s time was 0.15 seconds inside the oldest record in the book, set in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, on August 13, 1981. She had the perfect foil in her record-breaking swim with Atlanta silver medalist, Petria Thomas, pushing her all the way. O’Neill and Thomas were both under the world record splits at every turn, with less than a body length separating them at the 150m mark. It was at this crucial stage where she has faltered in the past, that O’Neill was able to hold her form and power to the wall. Thomas finished 1.4 seconds behind in 2:07.21.
The usually reserved O’Neill did a short dance to Shanya Twain’s, "Feel Like a Woman" as she left the pool to the delight of the crowd. She said after the race, that she was confident that now that she had broken the record, she would be able to swim faster.
Susie O’Neill’s world record splits:
50m 100m 150m 200m
28.51 1:00.24 1:32.71 2:05.81
Mary T. Meagher’s splits:
29.53 1:01.41 1:33.69 2:05.96
The performance of Petria Thomas at this meet is remarkable. She had only started to compete again in January, after shoulder surgery last year. Her time tonight was the eleventh fastest in history and moved her to fourth all-time performer.
In the men’s 100m freestyle final, many were expecting Ian Thorpe to add another title to his collection, but Michael Klim was not about to let him take his sprint crown. In fact it was Chris Fydler who proved to be the challenger on this occasion. Just as he did at the Pan Pacs, Klim took the race out hard, turning .10 of a second under Russian Alex Popov’s world record split, in 23.23, with Fydler second (23.53) and Ashley Callus in third (23.99). Thorpe was last in the field at the 50m. Fydler tried hard to bridge the gap but Klim touched ahead in 48.56–an Australian and Commonwealth record–to Fydler’s 48.85, with Callus holding third (49.46). Thorpe finished fourth in 49.74, 0.29 of a second slower than his personal best set in the semi-final.
Klim’s time was 0.17 faster than his winning time at the Pan Pacs last August and the fifth fastest swim in history. Klim is now the fourth fastest all-time performer behind Popov, Dutchman Pieter Van den Hoogenband and American sprint legend, Matt Biondi. Fydler’s swim ranks him seventh on the all-time performers list.
Ryan Mitchell had something to prove tonight in his favored 200m breaststroke, having failed to qualify in 100m on Sunday. Mitchell led at ever turn to touch in 2:14.42, holding off a fast finishing Regan Harrison, who clocked 2:14.80. The fastest qualifier, Jim Piper, swam another personal best to finish third (2:15.42). Simon Cowley, the Pan Pac and Commonwealth Games champion, failed to qualify for the Olympic team, finishing fourth.
Sarah Ryan was the fastest qualifier for the women’s 100m freestyle tomorrow, in a personal best 55.46. She improved upon her good form from last year’s Pan Pacs, where she placed second in this event behind American Jenny Thompson. Ryan’s time was the second best by an Australian, behind Susie O’Neill’s 54.86 set leading off the freestyle relay earlier in the week. O’Neill swam in the heats this morning but wisely choose to withdraw from the semi-finals to concentrate on the 200m fly. Dorsal specialist, Giaan Rooney, again proved she could swim freestyle, qualifying second fastest in 56.47, from Jacinta van Lint (56.51) and Elka Graham (56.58). The qualifying times suggest we should see the fastest-ever Australian women’s 100m freestyle championship.
An inspiring performance from the race was the qualification of Lori Munz in eight place. Munz, broke both her legs in a serious motor vehicle accident just ten weeks ago, and has made a remarkable recovery to even get back in the pool.
Former word record-holder, Rebecca Brown, was the fastest qualifier for the 200m breaststroke in 2:28.71, aheadof fourteen-year-old sensation Leisel Jones (2:29.69).
Matt Welsh swam a personal best by one and a half seconds, to be fastest qualifier for the final of the 200m backstroke in the excellent time 1:59.54. His swim was the second fastest time in the world this year.
Matt Dunn stated he had plenty left for the final tomorrow, in posting the best qualifying time of 2:01.84 in the men’s 200IM. He finished ahead of Grant McGregor (2:02.26) and 400IM winner, Justin Norris (2:02.48).