By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, May 19 – In front of a crowd of over 11,000, the much-heralded clash between world record-holder, Michael Klim and second ranked Aussie, Geoff Huegill, proved to be a thrilling battle. As the swimmers mounted the blocks for the final, Klim had already qualified for the Olympic team in both the 100 and 200 meter freestyle. But Huegill, who had broken the world record for the 50m fly on the second night of competition, had yet to qualify for the Olympic team.
Both men were under Klim’s world record split of 24.49 at the 50m, with Huegill first to turn in 24.31, ahead of Klim in 24.39. In the home straight, Klim made up ground and looked like he had caught Huegill at the wall. However, the electronic board showed otherwise – Huegill had held on by 0.01 of a second.
Huegill’s time of 52.19, was the fourth fastest time in history and made him the second fastest man ever. Klim’s 52.20, gave him six of the ten all-time best performances over the distance. The result was the reverse of the final of this event at the Pan Pacs last August, where Klim beat Huegill by exactly the same margin. University of Nebraska based, Adam Pine, took third, in a personal best 52.72, ahead of Atlanta silver medalist, Scott Miller (52.83).
Clementine Stoney took the women's 200 meter backstroke out hard and led the field for the first 150m with fastest qualifier, Dyana Calub, sitting half a body length behind. Calub came home the stronger and touched in 2:13.35, a huge four second improvement on her best coming into the meet. The result moved her to third best Australian performer over the distance. Stoney also swam a personal best, finishing second in 2:13.58, the seventh best Aussie all-time performer. Fifteen-year-old, Kelly Tucker, was third, also in a personal best, 2:15.08.
Hayley Lewis, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist for the 800m freestyle, was the fastest qualifier for tonight’s final. Lewis had retired following the Atlanta Olympics after a disappointing performance. Now married with a two-year-old son, she had only returned to serious training in November last year. Tonight she led from the first lap, growing stronger as the race went on, to record a winning time of 8:35.56.
The time, which was the fifth fastest in the world this year, shocked Lewis but it is still a long way off her personal best of 8:26.86 set in 1993. Her coach, John Carew, felt that now she had made her third Olympic team, she has the mental and physical strength to challenge in the final in Sydney. Rachel Harris, the ‘98 Commonwealth Games gold medalist in this event, qualified for the second place on the team in 8:38.73. Danielle Woods took third in 8:39.88.
Training partners, Brett Hawke and Chris Fydler were the fastest qualifiers in the 50m freestyle final and the two proved worthy rivals again. Hawke beat his more experienced teammate in recording the fourth fastest time in the world this year. He touched in 22.29, breaking Michael Klim’s Australian record by 0.03 of a second. Fydler clocked 22.42, and was inside his personal best by just 0.01 of a second, set in the semi-final. Ashley Callus was third in a personal best 22.54, moving him up to fifth Australian all-time performer.
Petria Thomas comfortably took out the 50m butterfly in 27.02, well outside the Commonwealth and Australian record she set in the semi-final (26.78). Jordana Webb was second in a personal best 27.87, with Shelley McGuirk, in third (27.90).
Twenty-nine-year-old, Phil Rogers, won the 50m breaststroke in 29.15, well outside his Australian record of 28.40, set in 1996. Rogers qualified for his third Olympic team by winning the 100m breast-stroke earlier in the meet.
Matt Welsh, winner of the 100m and 200m backstroke, was the fastest qualifier for the 50m final tomorrow in 25.72. He qualified ahead of Josh Watson (26.01) and Robert Wyllie (26.05).
Fresh from her world record in the 200m butterfly, Susie O’Neill was back in the pool tonight, qualifying fastest for the 50m freestyle in 25.83. He time was the second fastest by an Australian and only 0.04 of a second outside the national record. Sarah Ryan, the winner of the 100m last night, qualified second fastest, equaling her personal best of 25.95. O’Neill was happy with her personal best but will not swim the final due to a wedding commitment in Queensland tomorrow.
Rebecca Brown was the fastest qualifier for the 50m breaststroke in a time of 32.33, comfortably ahead of Helen Denman (32.60) and Brooke Hanson (32.64). Samantha Riley, did not contest this race and said she was deferring a decision regarding her retirement for the moment.