By Stephen J Thomas
SYDNEY, May 13, Just when you thought Ian Thorpe hadn’t surfaced for awhile, the mighty teenager made sudden impact in the final of the 400m freestyle on the first night of Australian Olympic Trials andd National Championships at the Sydney Aquatic Centre.
Thorpe attacked the first half of the race, turning in 1:49.14–almost two full seconds under his own world record pace set in this pool at the Pan Pacs last August. In the end, Thorpe took exactly half a second off his old mark to touch in 3:41.33. His nearest rival, Grant Hackett, the short course world record-holder in this event, split 1:51.43 at the 200m but was not even in the wake of the amazing Thorpe, eventually settling to swim for a comfortable second and the other place on the Olympic team in 3:51.05.
Daniel Kowalski (3:55.46) and Kieren Perkins (3:55.63) were the fourth and fifth fastest qualifiers, respectively, but did not swim the final this evening. Kowalski chose to concentrate on making the team as part of the 200m freestyle relay while Perkins is aiming for his third shot at the 1500m.
Thorpe’s comparative splits:
100m 200m 300m 400m
August 1999 54.07 1:51.03 2:46.29 3:41.83
May 2000 53.15 1:49.14 2:45.18 3:41.33 WR
The quote of the night from Thorpe on the race was:
"It was not the best race tactically but I qualified (for the Olympic team)".
There were several other world class performances in the preliminary races. Petria Thomas broke her month-old Commonwealth and Australian record for the 100m butterfly in her heat(58.42) and then again in a sensational 58.05 in the semi-final, to become the third fastest performer all-time, trailing only Americans Jenny Thompson and Mary T Meagher. More amazing was the fact that Thomas only started to race again in January after recovering from a second shoulder operation. To make the final interesting tomorrow night, Susie O’Neill clocked 58.93 in the other semi-final, the third fastest time over the distance this year, with world record-holder Jenny Thompson yet to swim the distance. O’Neill swam another personal best for the night in the 400m freestyle when she started for her Queensland club and touched in the fastest time in the world for the year to date (54.86). She set a Commonwealth and Australian record and moved to 11th on the all-time performer rankings.
In the non-Olympic events, Queenslander Geoff Huegill set a Commonwealth and Australian record in the 50m fly semi-final, in 23.77, the second best all-time, behind Russian Denis Pankratov’s ’96 world mark (23.68). Backstroke specialist, Dyana Calub, broke the Commonwealth and Australian record over 50m in her heat (29.19) and then went lower it in her semi-final (28.89) to move to fourth best all-time performer.
Ryan Mitchell (1:02.72) qualified first for tomorrow night’s men’s 100m breaststroke final ahead of veteran, Phil Rodgers (1:02.89) and Pan Pac champion, Simon Cowley (1:03.04).
Jennifer Reilly (4:44.20) and Rachel Harris (4:45.98) became the first swimmers to make the Australian Olympic team when they took the first two places in the 400m IM, ahead of the comebacking 1991 World Championship silver medalist, Hayley Lewis (4:48.54).