By Ian Hanson
SYDNEY, Dec. 5. THE 2001 Qantas Skins kicked off with a bang at the Sydney Aquatic Centre tonight with Australian pair Elka Graham and William Kirby skinning some of the world's best swimmers to collect AUS$6,500 (US$3,250) and AUS$6,000 (US$3,000) respectively.
Graham and Kirby led the Aussie charge, which saw them take out nine of the 12 events in front of a crowd of over 3000 enthusiastic fans. The Aussie dominance rounded off a stellar year which has included World Championship and Goodwill Games victories.
The Aussie winners were:
Elka Graham (3x100m freestyle)
Julia Ham (4x50m butterfly)
Leisel Jones (4x50m breaststroke)
Clementine Stoney (4x50m backstroke)
Rebecca Creedy (4x50m freestyle)
Jennifer Reilly (Mystery Medley)
William Kirby (3x100m freestyle)
Geoff Huegill (4x50m butterfly)
Ray Hass (4x50m backstroke)
The small but select USA contingent collected two wins, with world record-holding wizard Ed Moses taking the 4x50m breaststroke and sprint star Jason Lezak the 4x50m freestyle, while New Zealand's Dean Kent won the Kiwi's lone skin in the men's Mystery Medley.
The first final of the night was decided in the women's 50 metre butterfly elimination. Sydney teenager Lara Davenport and New Zealander Megan Allan exited the race early up followed by Tasmanian Nicole Hunter.
An all Aussie final duel between Julia Ham and Felicity Galvez ended in a victory to the Queenslander, Ham, who clocked 28.81 to take home the AUS$5000 (US$2,500) prize money a full second ahead of hometown girl, Galvez.
Victorian, Ray Hass took out the men's 50m backstroke eliminator for the second consecutive year. Hass faced off in the final against fellow Australian and world championship team member, Josh Watson, and proved too strong, streaking away in the final showdown to grab the cash.
Tasmanian turned Queenslander, Beau Mannix was red-carded earlier to take third placing. Matt Welsh was a surprise elimination in round one, followed by American Mike Gilliam.
The USA vs Australia showdown continued in the women's 3x100m freestyle accumulator between Lindsay Benko and Elka Graham.
Graham took out the first 100 metre event in 57.32 with Benko second in 57.39. In a mirror image of the first race, the Sydneysider Graham (58.61) touched ahead of her American rival (59.23).
Graham sealed back-to-back Skins titles with her third victory from as many starts in the final 100 metres. Lindsay Benko took second place while Campbelltown teenager Amanda Pascoe was third.
New Zealand's Dean Kent won the men's 200m mystery medley after a strong first half set up his race. The Kiwi had a good draw and stormed home with freestyle in the final lap to touch out a strong performance from Australian Grant McGregor who finished with the backstroke leg.
Newcastle's Justin Norris, who spent the day surfing at Freshwater Beach yesterday, took third place while newly-wed Robert van der Zant and South African Terrance Parkin rounded out the field.
The women's breaststroke 4×50 metre eliminator saw a world class field with Sarah Kasoulis eliminated early along with Queenslander Tarnee White.
Great Britain sprinting guru Zoe Baker was third after falling off the pace in the third 50m leg.
The final showdown between defending champion, Brooke Hanson and Queenslander, Leisel Jones, had Hanson fly out of the blocks before Queensland youngster Jones used her smooth technical stroke and 200 metre endurance to finish strongly and take her first ever Qantas Skins title along with the AUS$5000 (US$2,500) cash.
Geoff Huegill looked in great form taking out the men's 50 metre butterfly eliminator in fine style after Russian, Denis Pankratov, exited early, soon to be followed by Queenslanders, Josh Krogh and Shane Fielding.
Adam Pine was left to contend with the 50 metre world champion and world record holder in the final but could not mount a challenge to a somewhat foxing Huegill who took the AUS$5000 prize money, continuing his great form.
In the women's 50 metre eliminator Sophie Edington and Jodie Henry both took early exits with Sweden's Josephine Lillhage soon to follow.
In the final, defending champion Rebecca Creedy held off newly-wed Sarah Ryan to take her second consecutive title.
The final of the men's breaststroke witnessed the only Australian in the race, Simon Cowley eliminated first up, followed by defending Qantas Skins champion, Morgan Knabe of Canada, touched out by 0.01 of a second to miss the final.
The all international final between Steven Ferguson of New Zealand and Ed Moses from the United States went right down to the wire with the Olympic silver medalist in this pool in 2000, Moses, just tipping out a surprise packet performance from the Kiwi.
A fast paced women's 50 metre backstroke saw 200 metre specialist, Kelly Tucker, red carded first up. New Zealander, Hanna McLean, soon followed in her footsteps along with Frances Adcock.
Australian, Clementine Stoney and South African, Charlene Wittstock contested the final with Stoney too strong in dominating the last 50 metres to take victory along with AUS$5000 reasons to be elated with her performance.
Stoney's opening 50m was actually a personal best time of 30.26 and she backed up with 30.59, 30.87 and sealed the victory and the cash in 30.42.
Bill Kirby went after the 3×100 metre event, taking out the first two races in style and setting up a tight finish.
Fellow Western Australian, Antony Matkovich, won the third race but it wasn't enough on accumulative time to take down Kirby who took AUS$6000 for his efforts.
Great Britain's, Paul Palmer was third with Chad Carvin and Leon Dunne taking out the minor cash.
The women's mystery medley had defending champion, Jennifer Reilly hold on in the final backstroke leg to touch out fast finishing Amanda Beard and Jessica Abbott.
Upsets came thick and fast in the men's sprint freestyle eliminator with defending champion, Ashley Callus, exiting after only the first race.
US sprint specialist Aaron Ciarla received a red card soon after along with Australian, David Jenkins. The final between Australian, Todd Pearson, and American, Jason Lezak, ended soon after it started with Lezak blitzing his opposition in fine style to go one better than last year to take the win.