By Stephen J. Thomas
MELBOURNE, Australia, February 2. THE expectation amongst the media was that Ian Thorpe would produce something special tonight after clocking an impressive 48.86 in the semifinal of the 100 freestyle. It was not to be!
In a closely contested event, Thorpe took the race in 49.28 to match the five-time winner of this title Michael Klim who touched next in 49.38, with 20-year-old rising star Eamon Sullivan (49.54) taking the bronze, and a third individual Games spot when he just touched out Ashley Callus (49.56). Thorpe, Klim and Callus were part of the Olympic gold medal freestyle relay team in Sydney . Brett Hawke, the Aussie record-holder over the one-lap race, went out in an ambitious 22.65 only to finish in sixth place, touching in 50.23. The team will need to look for some further improvement to challenge the South African world record-holders at the Commonwealth Games.
Thorpe said after the race he was disappointment with his overall performance at this meet and had expected to swim faster given his preparation. He felt he might have misjudged his taper a little having dropped the 400 freestyle from his program and moved more to a sprint orientated program. However, he said he was enjoying his return and was looking forward to further improvement at the Commonwealth Games. Given it has been 18-months since the dual Athens gold medalist has been in racing mode, he might expect to need to blow away a few cobwebs so early in his return.
World champion Jessicah Schipper broke her own 100 butterfly Commonwealth and Australian record by .08 to clock 57.15 with an impressive back half performance that lifted her to second all-time performer behind Inky de Bruign. As expected Libby Lenton, the silver medalist from Montreal, took the race out hard, turning first in 26.71, just .04 outside the world record split, with Schipper next in 26.94 and Alice Mills third (27.00). However, Schipper repeated her World Champs form to get past Lenton under the flags and hit the wall in 57.15 from Lenton (PR 57.35) and Mills (PR 58.16). Felicity Galvez also produced a PR to miss a medal in 58.87.
Athens Olympian Travis Nederpelt produced a strong final freestyle leg in the 400 individual medley to get past title-holder Adam Lucas in the final stretch to touch in 4:20.47 with Lucas finishing in 4:22.56. Both swimmers were around four seconds outside their personal best times on the night. Third place went to the winner of the 200 backstroke, 17-year-old Ephraim Hannant in 4:23.65.
The women’s 800 freestyle was taken by Melissa Gorman in 8:32.39 – eighth fastest all-time Aussie performer – in a tough struggle with Olympian Sarah Paton 8:33.78. Teen Caroline South took the bronze in 8:40.78.
In a busy semifinal program tonight:
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
Fresh from her four-lap world record last evening, Leisel Jones produced what appeared to be an effortless swim, clocking a hot 1:06.70 – just half-a-second outside Jessica Hardy’s world mark. Jade Edmistone, the 50-meter world record-holder was next in 1:07.86, just .24 outside her PR, while Tarnee White, a Sydney Olympic finalist in this event (1:08.11) and Brooke Hanson (1:08.51), the Athens silver medalist, were also in the mix for a super-fast race.
Women’s 50 Freestyle
Commonwealth record-holder Alice Mills produced an excellent 24.93 to easily lead the qualifiers with Libby Lenton (25.21) next after her 100 fly. They were followed by sprint specialist Michelle Engelsman (25.42), Jodie Henry (25.43) and Melanie Schlanger (25.68).
Men’s 50 breaststroke
Australian record-holder Brenton Rickard posted the fastest qualifying time, clocking 28.23, just ahead of the promising Christian Sprenger (PR 28.25) and former title-holder Mark Riley (25.60).
Women’s 50 Backstroke
Commonwealth record-holder Giaan Rooney was the fastest through to the final on the back of a fast 28.78. Tay Zimmer, winner of the 100, clocked a PR of 28.82, ahead of her training partner Sophie Edington (29.02).
Men’s 100 Butterfly
Thirty-year-old Adam Pine leads the qualifiers with a very solid 52.89. The father of two will attempt to become the first swimmer to compete at four Commonwealth Games. First-time father as of last Friday night, Michael Klim has had a busy week having already taken gold in the 50 fly and silver in the 100 free. He was next through into the final clocking 53.47 ahead of Andrew Richards 53.52.
Men’s 100 Backstroke
Ethan Rolff (55.62) led Commonwealth record-holder Matt Welsh (55.64), Andrew Lauterstein (55.91) and Hayden Stoeckel (56.04) in the qualifying round.