Aussie Update: Who’s Walking Down the Aisle, Who’s Under the Knife?

By Stephen Thomas

SYDNEY, December 4. IN the hiatus that has followed the pressure and tension associated with the World Championships and Goodwill Games, many of Australia's leading swimmers have been using the opportunity to take some important 'dry land' matters in hand. Several have needed to go under the surgeon's knife and others the equally challenging experience of taking the marital plunge prior to recommencing competition here in Australia next week with the popular Qantas Skins and FINA World Cup.

Four Weddings
In the case of triple world champion, Petria Thomas, she's aiming for the double! Thomas went under the surgeon's knife straight after the Goodwill Games to repair torn ligaments in her foot. Initially in plaster, she was out of the water for more than a month but is back in the pool doing limited work at this stage. However, Thomas is quietly confident she will be fit enough to make it down the aisle for her wedding December 15.

Her Aussie teammate, Sarah Ryan, beat Thomas to the altar, taking her marriage vows in mid-October. The two-time Olympian has been in the best form of her career, recording several PR's and successfully anchored the Australian women's medley relay to gold at the World Championships.

Another heading down the aisle, former breaststroke champ, Sam Riley, who turned twenty-nine this month, married Queensland real estate agent, Tim Fydler, 27, the younger brother of retired Sydney Olympic gold medallist, Chris Fydler.

Fellow Queenslander, Olympian, Robert Van de Zant, has also married in his home state just after competing at the Goodwill Games. He went directly from his honeymoon in Hawaii to swim in the Novo Nordisk Sprint Cup in October.

Under the Knife
All-rounder, Lori Munz has had further surgery on the knee she smashed in an auto accident than put her out of contention for the Sydney Olympics. Munz is recovering well and has been training solidly to be ready to compete at the Australian Institute of Sport meet in Canberra this weekend and the two international events in Sydney and Melbourne.

Not so fortunate backstroke sprinter, Dyana Calub, who has had knee reconstruction surgery and can only hope to make it back in the pool to be competitive for the National Championships in March 2002. Calub picked up gold at the World Championships swimming the dorsal leg of the medley relay with Thomas, Ryan and breaststroker Leisel Jones.

Elka Graham, the world's top ranked woman over 200 freestyle this year, with a 1:58.54 at the World Champs, had her tonsils removed last month after receiving specialist advice. Graham had been experiencing repeated throat infections for some time and it was felt this would be the most effective long-term solution. She will also compete in the three coming meets.

Graham's main Australian rival next week will be Giaan Rooney, the reigning 200 freestyle World Champion. Rooney has been linked romantically with Michael Klim in recent months, so much so that the world record-holder for the 100 fly has moved from Canberra for an unspecified time to train under Denis Cotterell at her Gold Coast club, Miami. He is also training alongside fellow Olympians Grant Hackett and Dan Kowalski.

Klim had some additional arthroscopic surgery following the Goodwill Games after competing at the World Championships with a fracture in his ankle, which particularly impacted on his fly performance.

There have been unconfirmed rumours circulating that Klim might make a permanent move from long-time coach Gennadi Touretski. Touretski has been taking time out after heart bypass surgery last month and will not rush his return to the pool deck. The Russian born coach also had to suffer a five-month break from coaching in April after a bizarre set of circumstances led to him being charged with possession of a banned substance (the anabolic steroid stanozolol). The charges were dropped in October, the case dismissed with costs awarded to him.

Touretski's other leading charge, the four-time Olympic gold medalist, Alexander Popov, has not rushed back to the pool either, after recovering from a serious attack of tonsillitis which saw him pull out of the World Championships. He is only recently returned to training at the AIS in Canberra.

Ins and Outs
Multiple Olympic medalist, Daniel Kowalski is back in the pool after reconstruction surgery to both shoulders after picking up an Olympic gold as part of the 4×200 freestyle relay team. The 26-year-old had his left shoulder operated on in December 2000 followed by the right in March and was back in the pool by June. Kowalski said he would focus on qualifying for the Commonwealth Games team in the 1500 freestyle alongside training partner and world record holder Grant Hackett. Kowalski will swim next week in Melbourne.

Fellow Atlanta Olympics 100 fly silver medalist, Scott Miller, 26, has decided to get his togs back on after retiring when he failed to make the team for the Sydney Games. The 26-year-old has moved from Sydney to Melbourne after a recent divorce, to begin training under coach Ian Pope in a bid to make the team for Athens in 2004. Pope is also the coach of Australia's leading backstroker Matt Welsh.

Sydney Olympian and World Champs middle distance freestyler, Sarah-Jane D'Arcy has retired after two consecutive disappointing performances in the 400 freestyle. In a career that has been punctuated with illness, the 24-year-old took ill before the Atlanta trials and retired. She returned to the pool to train with Mark Regan at the AIS in 1999 to make the Pan Pac team in September of that year. In hot form in January 2000, she swam a 4:03.50 over the 400m short-course at the Sydney FINA World Cup, the 4th fastest all-time globally, but was unable to reproduce that form at the big meets that followed.

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