By Thephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, May 18 – The final of the women’s 200m breaststroke saw a quality field battle for only two places on the Olympic team. Former world record-holder, Rebecca Brown, was the fastest qualifier. In the finals, she led the field for the first half of the race with dual Olympian, Samantha Riley, and Caroline Hildreth close behind. Hildreth, who was third in the 100m final, moved into the lead with a very fast third lap, held off Brown and rookie, Leisel Jones, to win in 2:27.69 – her personal best by 1.55 seconds. Brown finished in 2:28.98, with Jones, who swam an inexperienced race, 2:29.74. A tiring, Samantha Riley touched a disappointing fifth.
The four fastest qualifiers for the men’s 100m butterfly final tomorrow night went under the 53-second mark. World record-holder, Michael Klim, swam the fourth fastest time in history with a 52.22, beating Atlanta silver medalist, Scott Miller (52.95). In the other semi, Geoff Huegill won in 52.67, from University of Nebraska-based, Adam Pine, who swam a personal best 52.94. Klim has now swum the five fastest times in history in this event and should go close to his world record of 51.81 in the final.
Matt Welsh took the backstroke double with a personal best 1:59.22, the second fastest time in the world this year. Welsh, wearing traditional racing briefs, made his move into the second half of the race expecting the challenge to come from Pan Pac silver medalist, Ray Hass, and Josh Watson. However it was the Pan Pac bronze medalist, Cameron Delaney (2:00.68), who came through to take the second spot in the team, with Ross Powells (2:01.24) in third place.
Dual Olympian, Matt Dunn, has made the team in both individual medley events, when he came home with his trademark strong finish in the 200m IM. It was Dunn’s seventh Australian championship over the shorter distance. In an upset, 25-year-old Robert van de Zant, took second place and an Olympic team berth in a personal best 2:01.47, beating his more fancied rivals, Grant McGregor (2:01.96) and 400IM winner, Justin Norris (2:03.29).
Sarah Ryan was disappointed she did not improve on her personal best of 55.46 set in the semi-final, when she won the 100m freestyle final in exactly the same time. Giaan Rooney, finished second in 56.19, but this was not under the Olympic qualifying time. She may now regret the decision to pull out of the 200m backstroke to concentrate on winning an individual place in this event. Melanie Dodd, who trains with Ryan under coach Gennadi Touretski, took third place in 56.56. Newcomer, Sybilla Goode (56.65), Jacinta van Lint (56.67) and Jodie Henry (56.77) were the others to make the 400m relay squad. Despite enormous support from the crowd, Lori Munz was unable to gain a place on the team, finishing eighth in 56.86. This was a remarkable effort given the extent of her leg injuries, incurred in a serious auto accident just ten weeks ago. She still has one last chance to qualify in the 50m freestyle.
Petria Thomas carried through her excellent form from last night’s 200m butterfly, when she broke her own Commonwealth and Australian record twice, in her heat (26.88) and semi-final (26.78) of the 50m fly. It was the ninth-fastest all-time performance over the distance.
Dyana Calub qualified fastest for the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:14.81 from Clementine Stoney (2:15.34). Giaan Rooney decided to skip this event to concentrate on tonight’s 100m freestyle final.
Dual Olympian and 1991 World Championship gold medalist, Hayley Lewis, was the fastest qualifier for the women’s 800m freestyle, in 8:42.52, ahead of the 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Rachel Harris (8:44.49) and 400m freestyle winner, Sarah-Jane D’Arcy (8:44.92).
Training partners, Brett Hawke and Chris Fydler were the fastest qualifiers for the men’s 50m freestyle final tomorrow night. Hawke, a former Auburn University standout, improved 0.06 of a second from his morning heat, to swim another personal best of 22.40s. Fydler, second in the 100m, also touched in a personal best 22.43s. In all, there were five swimmers under the 23-second mark in the semi-finals. Michael Klim, the Australian record-holder at 22.31s, did not swim the event to concentrate on the 100m fly.
Veteran Phil Rogers, winner of the 100m breaststroke, was the fastest qualifier for the non-Olympic 50m event, in 29.02.