By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, Aug. 16. AT the previous three Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, the Aussies and Yanks have played out some great battles in the pool.
Way back in 1997 in Fukuoka, the USA took 18 gold to the Aussies 10.
However, two years later in Sydney, a record home crowd of more than 55,000 saw the two great rivals tie the gold-medal tally 13 apiece! As this was the first international meet I covered for SwimmingWorldMagazine.com, I was lucky enough to witness 12 world records over the eight days. Stepping-up for the Aussies was a 16-year-old by the name of Ian Thorpe; he broke the 200 (twice) and 400 freestyle global standards, and was part of another in the 800 freestyle relay. For the USA, Jenny Thomson became the fastest women over 100-meters fly and Lenny Krayzelburg cleaned-up in the dorsal events with three global standards. South African breaststroker Penny Heyns went one better with four world records – lowering her 200-meter time twice in the competition.
In Yokohama in 2002, the USA reigned supreme with a slightly unexpected 21 to 11 gold medal blow-out over the team from Down Under, with just one world record going to the US medley relay team of Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Michael Phelps and Jason Lezak. Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett contributed five individual wins and well as two golds in the other relays. However, the Aussies picked up 11 silver medals so they were certainly in the fight to the end.
Unfortunately for those looking for a similar clash this time around it is not looking at all promising, as the Aussie team is the most inexperienced it has fielded at a major international in recent memory.
However, there is some sound logic to this decision. I’m sure one important factor came out of the Aussies campaign in 2002. Several members of that team, including Grant Hackett, competed at the World Short Course Champs in Moscow (April), Commonwealth Games in Manchester (July) then home for a week before heading to Yokohama (August). A numbers of swimmers (and coaches) were close to burnout by the time they got to Japan. A few of the team even made an additional trip to the Mare Nostrum in Europe to add to their frequent flyer miles.
So this time around, the primary competitive focus for the year has been the Commonwealth Games held down here in March followed shortly after by the World Short Course Champs in Shanghai.
So most of Australia’s top ranked swimmers, the likes of Grant Hackett, Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim, Jim Piper, Ashley Callus, Leisel Jones, Libby Lenton, Jodie Henry, Jade Edmistone, Alice Mills, Sophie Edington, Tayliah Zimmer and Brooke Hanson will not be competing in Canada. They have chosen to concentrate on their preparation for the selection trials for the 2007 World Champs to be held in early December.
The Aussie team will be led by 29-year-old dorsal specialist Matt Welsh who will be competing at his fourth Pan Pacs. Dual Olympian Jennifer Reilly – a gold medalist in the 400 IM in Yokohama – is on her third team. However, medal pickings will be tough and you would expect World Champion Jessicah Schipper to be their best chance for gold in her two fly events. Also on the women’s side, US-based Jo Fargus will be a chance in the dorsal 200, another US-based swimmer, the globe-trotting freestyle sprinter Michelle Engelsman might surprise and young dual Commonwealth Games gold medalist Stephanie Rice looks promising in the IM events but her preparation has been affected by illness. The experienced Linda MacKenzie should also be in the mix in the 200 freestyle. Among the men, breastroker Brenton Rickard continues to improve but he will be up against an inspired dual world record-holder in Brendan Hansen.
Many members of this young team produced some good form against local competition during their tour of California in June but after watching the US trials just 10 days ago I would expect some even faster performances from the US team starting Thursday.
Leith Brodie (Albany Creek, QLD), David Browne (St Peters Western, QLD), Nick D'Arcy (Maroochydore, QLD), Ashley Delaney (Nunawading, VIC), Nick Ffrost (Southport Olympic, QLD), Casey Flouch (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, QLD),Trent Grimsey (Albany Creek, QLD), Ephraim Hannant (Miami, QLD), Ky Hurst (Miami, QLD), Josh Krogh (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, QLD), Andrew Lauterstein (Southport Olympic, QLD), Adam Lucas (West Coast, WA), Kurtis MacGillivary (Miami, QLD), Andrew Mewing (Miami, QLD), Kenrick Monk (SAC Seals, NSW), Travis Nederpelt (City of Perth, WA), Brenton Rickard (Carey Aquatic, VIC), Ethan Rolff (Kingscliff, NSW), Cameron Smith (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, QLD), Hayden Stoeckel (Kingscliff, NSW), Eamon Sullivan (West Coast, WA), Matt Welsh (Melbourne Vicentre, VIC).
Frances Adcock (Norwood, SA), Lauren Arndt (Miami, QLD), Bronte Barratt (Albany Creek, QLD), Melissa Benson (City of Perth, WA), Michelle Engelsman (Manly Jetz, NSW), Joanna Fargus (Miami, QLD), Melissa Gorman (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, QLD), Sarah Katsoulis (Carey Aquatic, VIC), Karina Leane (Melbourne Vicentre, VIC), Linda MacKenzie (Mackay, QLD), Ashleigh McCleery (Southport, QLD), Kylie Palmer (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, QLD), Sarah Paton (Telopea, NSW), Shayne Reese (Carey Aquatic, VIC), Jennifer Reilly (City of Perth, WA), Stephanie Rice (St Peters Western, QLD), Jessicah Schipper (Redcliffe Leagues Lawnton, QLD), Melanie, Schlanger (Maroochydore, QLD), Kelly Stubbins (Haileybury Waterlions, VIC), Stephanie Williams (Hunter, NSW).