By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, March 13. PERHAPS the retirement of Olympic 100 butterfly champion Petria Thomas won’t leave too much of a weakness in the stocks of Aussie women’s fly after an impressive performance by three of her younger Athens teammates.
Olympic finalist Jessica Schipper (18), Libby Lenton (20) and Alice Mills (18) all posted best times Sunday at the Australian Championships, in a final that saw the three young women battle stroke for stroke to the wall. It was Lenton and Schipper (pictured) that prevailed in a tied result, both clocking 58.18. Mills was less than a tenth of a second back in 58.27. Lenton led at the turn in 27.21, to Mills (27.41) and Schipper (27.45).
Brenton Rickard blasted a new national mark in the 100 breaststroke, slashing 0.73 off his old record set at the World Champs in Barcelona to touch in 1:00.64. The Victorian 21-year-old, now based at the AIS in Canberra, literally left his main rival Jim Piper in his wake from the blocks. Rickard turned in 28.37 to Piper’s 29.14 and his fast start seemed to unsettle Piper who appeared to push too hard in an attempt to make up ground. Piper clocked 1:01.90, over half a second outside his best but good enough to qualify for the World Championships in Montreal.
Brooke Hanson was impressive in defeating Olympic finalist Lara Carroll in the 200 IM, after having already contested a semifinal of the 100 breaststroke earlier in the evening. Carroll set up a sizable lead after the backstroke leg and managed to keep a slight advantage after holding Hanson at bay in the breaststroke but Hanson came home strongly in the free to win by more than a second – 2:13.33 to 2:14.52. Hanson’s time was just outside her PR 2:13.14 in beating national record-holder Alice Mills. The national record-holder at 2:12.47, Mills decided to skip this event to concentrate of the 100 fly where she finished third.
Olympic 50 freestyle finalist Brett Hawke had an convincing win in the 50 fly, getting to the wall in 23.87 – only the fourth Aussie to go under the 24-second mark behind former world record-holders Matt Welsh, Geoff Huegill and Michael Klim. Unfortunately for Hawke he was just .01 of a second outside the qualifying standard for Montreal but he will be back for another shot in the 50 free later in the week. Matt Welsh was DQ’ed in the prelims for a false start.
Grant Hackett was best in the 200 free, clocking 1:48.24 from Olympic backstroker Pat Murphy (1:49.07), Nic Sprenger (1:49.65) and Andrew Mewing (1:49.72). No fairy tales for Craig Stevens, he finished well off the pace in 1:53.92.
Matt Welsh was comfortable in the 100 backstroke in 55.25 from Michael Jackson (55.72) and Ethan Rolff (55.78). Sophie Edington posted an impressive 1:01.28 in the 100 backstroke – just one tenth outside Giaan Rooney’s national record – and training partner Tay Zimmer went 1:02.06. Rooney was timed in 1:02.12.
Hanson clocked a very swift 1:07.84 in the 100 breaststroke to head world record-holder Leisel Jones (1:08.16), Sydney Olympic finalist Tarnee White (1:08.34) and Jade Edmistone (1:08.92) into an exciting final.