By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, May 26. TWO of Australia’s top Olympic medal prospects — the three-time Olympian Petria Thomas and Brooke Hanson — have dropped individual swims in Athens to give themselves more time for recovery between events.
The 28-year-old Thomas was in sensational form at the Aussie Trials, setting PRs in the butterfly treble and 100-200 freestyle and looked like heading down the same road as former teammate Susie O’Neill at the Sydney Games — being in a position to swim the 200 free and fly finals on consecutive days.
Brooke Hanson, selected on her first Olympic team at the age of 26, was scheduled to swim the 100-200 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley after upsetting world record-holder Leisel Jones in the 100 breast and 200 IM World Champs silver medalist Alice Mills in the Olympic trials.
National head coach Leigh Nugent has confirmed that Thomas will drop the individual swim in the wide-open 200 free to concentrate on her pet event, the 200 fly (No.1 ranked in 2004 with a 2:06.01 at the Trials. Thomas took the silver in this event behind O’Neill and the bronze again behind the then world record-holder O’Neill and upset winner Misty Hyman.
The Olympic program has the semifinals of the 200 free just two races before the fly final. Thomas would dearly love to take gold in the 200 fly to end a career that has seen her battle to recover from shoulder reconstructions on three occasions. Thomas will also swim the 100 fly and play a major role in the very strong freestyle and medley relays.
Thomas has been replaced in the 200 freestyle by Barcelona finalist Elka Graham, who finished third in the trials in 1:58.70 (PR 1:58.54).
Brooke Hanson would have been in a similar position in Athens with no Olympic experience under her belt. Hanson was scheduled to swim the 100 breaststroke final just two swims prior to the semi-final of the 200 IM. Hanson is ranked No.1 in the 100 breaststroke after upsetting world record-holder Leisel Jones at the trials in 1:07.17. Hanson will also compete in the 200 breaststroke in Athens.
Hanson has been replaced in the 200 IM by the promising 17-year-old Lara Carroll who finishing third in the Olympic trials in a promising 2:14.24. Carroll has also qualified to swim the 400 IM and could be considered a finals chance in both events.