By Ian Hanson
FUKUOKA, Japan. July 17. THE Telstra Dolphins Australian Swimming team touched down in Fukuoka for the Ninth FINA World Championships today, with all eyes on the team's superstar, Ian Thorpe.
Airport and World Championship organizers provided a tight security line for a smooth arrival for the triple Olympic champion and triple world record holder – very much the face of these championships.
Swarms of Japanese cameramen and television crews out numbered the Australian media on hand to greet the 43-strong Dolphins.
Thorpe stopped briefly to chat with the Japanese media before walking casually towards the Australian team buses, where the media throng again waited patiently for a glimpse of the swimmer dubbed in Japan as "The Water God."
In typical Thorpe style, he took it all in his stride, joining other members of the team on one of four buses, which took the Australians to their Fukuoka headquarters.
The Australian team will make the first of two public appearances tomorrow at the team's official press conference before the official Meat and Livestock Australia Welcome Luncheon.
The Dolphins will have their first look at the main competition pool this afternoon at 4:30pm, before the official medal presentation to Hayley Lewis, for her bronze medal in the 5K World Championship, 10 years after she won her only World Championship, over 200 meters in Perth in 1991.
A spritely Michael Klim, who will contest the championships, despite ruptured ankle ligaments, led the Australian team off the plane this morning after their week-long Staging Camp in Singapore and has declared himself ready to take his place in the Dolphins team.
Open water competition continues tomorrow with Lewis and her 5K partner Trudee Hutchinson and Mark Saliba and Leigh Bool all contesting the 10K event.
The 25K event with Saliba and Shelley Clark, will be conducted on Saturday, after Friday's Opening Ceremony with the start of the eight-day pool competition on Sunday.
DAY ONE HEAT SWIMMERS ARE
Brett Hawke and Ashley Callus who will line-up in the 50m freestyle; Leisel Jones and Tarnee White in the 100m breaststroke; Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett in the 400m freestyle; Jennifer Reilly and Megan McMahon (400IM); Matt Welsh and Josh Watson (100m backstroke);
Petria Thomas and Nicole Hunter (200m butterfly), Amanda Pascoe and Charlene Benzie (800m freestyle); and
the men's 4x100m freestyle relay.