By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, March 16. THREE-Time Olympian Michael Klim made a clear statement to the swimming world Wednesday that the former world record holder is back and competitive after an impressive performance on the fifth day of the Australian Championships.
By his own admission, these days he’s training smarter and more efficiently under coach Ian Pope, doing less miles and more quality to minimize any reoccurrence of back and shoulder injuries that have threatened to end his career several times since 2001.
The 27-year-old dual Olympic gold medalist led from the blocks in the 100 freestyle, flipping in front in 23.43 and held form to touch in 49.02. It was his best effort in almost four years and the time would have ranked eighth globally in 2004. In his wake were young guns Andrew Mewing (49.72) and Eamon Sullivan (50.05), but both were outside the world champs qualifying time. The 2003 joint national champ, Ashley Callus was next in 50.24, well adrift of his personal record of 48.92.
Adam Lucas took his first long course national title with a convincing win in the 200m individual medley. The 21-year-old Olympian led at every turn to take just under one second off his previous best, cruising to the wall in 2:00.98 – 4th all-time Aussie performer – which would have qualified for the final in Athens. Eighteen-year-old Leith Brodie produced another good performance in finishing second, improving on his PR from the prelims to touch in 2:01.81. He also dipped under the world championship qualifying time. Mitchell Bacon tired in the final leg to take third in 2:05.70.
Athens teammates Jessica Schipper and Felicity Galvez staged an exciting battle in the 200 butterfly with Galvez holding the lead until the final 20 meters. Schipper, though, started to edged in front and got to the wall first in a personal best of 2:08.39, with Galvez second in 2:09.30. Stephanie Rice, the 16-year-old fastest qualifier, swam another impressive race coming home strongly to take third in 2:09.71 (PR).
Reigning title-holder Giaan Rooney clocked 28.45 to lower her own Commonwealth record for the 50m backstroke by 0.06 – just 0.20 outside the world mark – edging out Sophie Edington (28.66) and Tay Zimmer (29.09).
In semifinal action:
In the women’s 100m freestyle, Libby Lenton blasted a hot 54.32 to head Alice Mills (54.61) and world record-holder Jodie Henry (55.21) into the final. Lenton turned under world record pace in 26.02 and cruised to the wall.
The national 200m breaststroke record-holder Jim Piper looked very comfortable in his signature event, clocking 2:13.31 from Rob McDonald (2:16.12) and Christian Sprenger (2:16.26). Piper should go close to breaking the Commonwealth record of 2:10.69 held by Brit Ian Edmond in the final.
In the women’s event Sarah Katsoulis was best in 2:28.27 from a cruising Olympic silver medalist Leisel Jones (2:29.38). Surprisingly Brooke Hanson decided to skip this event before the heats this morning to concentrate on the 50m breaststroke later in the week. Hanson indicated she has decided to target events she considers to be a better medal chance at the world championships – 50-100 breaststroke and 200IM.
Matt Welsh set himself up for his fifth 200m backstroke title to lead the qualifiers in 2:00.70, ahead of Andrew Burns (2:01.42) and Ethan Rolff (2:01.51).