By Stephen J. Thomas
MELBOURNE, Australia, January 31. IT didn’t take Libby Lenton long to get over her narrow defeat in the 200 free last night. The 21-year-old bounced back with a brilliant swim in a semifinal of the two-lap race, tonight slicing one-tenth of a second off her Aussie teammate, Olympic and world champion Jodie Henry’s world record to touch in 53.42.
Lenton got off to her signature powerful start to power away from the field in the first lap, turning .51 under Henry’s mark set in a semifinal at the 2004 Olympics. It was Lenton’s record that was broken in Athens after she had set the global standard in a semifinal of the Olympic trials in 2004 yet lost the final the following evening to Henry.
Tonight Henry took the other semifinal in a swift 54.52 so it will be interesting to see how the final will play out tomorrow evening. Alice Mills (54.72) and former University of Hawaii student Melanie Schlanger (PR 54.94) also went under the 55-second mark.
All eyes were on Ian Thorpe as he lined up for the final of the 200 freestyle this evening. He was never expected to be challenged and was well in control of his destiny midway through the race and cruised to a time of 1:46.42. By his own admission after the race he said he was feeling a little rusty after having had almost 18 months away from competitive racing.
Thorpe said he was disappointed with the time which was slightly slower than the 1:46.20 he swam at the NSW Open Championship in Sydney last month. One eye-catching performance was the effort of 19-year-old Nick Ffrost to take second place a PR 1:48.80 – ninth fastest all-time Aussie performer. Ffrost, who took second in the 400 free last night, is coached by Thorpe’s former coach Doug Frost. Frost encouraged the young Queenslander to make the move to the AIS in Canberra with him last year after working with him on the Gold Coast. Andrew Mewing (1:49.07), 17-year-old Kendrick Monk (1:49.25) and Joshua Krogh (1:49.94) all made it under the 1:50 barrier.
World record-holder Jade Edmistone failed to lower her world record 30.31 set yesterday in the prelims of the 50 breaststroke but did the important business of winning the final relatively comfortably tonight in 30.54. Leisel Jones proved she can also handle the one-lap sprint taking the silver in 30.87 with Tarnee White snatching the bronze in 31.02 from Brooke Hanson (31.04).
Danni Miatke, the world champ over 50 fly, produced her second fastest effort for the one-lap race slapping the pads in 26.23, not far outside her Commonwealth record of 26.11 posted in Montreal last year. She easily accounted for fellow world champion Jessicah Schipper (PR 26.63) and Alice Mills (PR 26.64) to take her second consecutive national title over the sprint.
Twenty-nine year old Aussie dorsal king Matt Welsh claimed his ninth national 50 backstroke title clocking 25.58 to head off his teenager challenger Andrew Lauterstein who clocked an impressive 25.83 to move to third on the all-time Aussie list. Former title-holder Josh Watson was third in 25.97.
In the other semifinals tonight:
Men’s 50 Butterfly
There will be a few veterans on show in the final tomorrow night with an impressive effort from 28-year-old Michael Klim leading the qualifiers in 23.88. Geoff Huegill produced a surprising good effort to take the other semi in a sharp 24.17. Matt Welsh and Auburn based teen Matt Targett both clocked 24.18 while 29-year-old Adam Pine (24.19) and 30-year-old Brett Hawke (24.34) will also be in the mix, as will rising star Eamon Sullivan (24.54).
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
Queenslander Christian Sprenger produced an excellent swim in the prelims this morning clocking 1:01.36, good for second place on the Australian all-time list. Sprenger who trains alongside Leisel Jones and Libby Lenton under coach Stephan Widmer was not quite as quick this evening but still posted the fastest qualifying time for the final of 1:01.70 ahead of his main challengers Jim Piper (1:01.83) and Aussie record-holder Brenton Rickard (1:02.18).
Women’s 100 Backstroke
Training partners Sophie Edington (1:01.57) and Tayliah Zimmer (1:02.20) took their respective semifinals to go into the final tomorrow night. However, Olympic gold medalist Giaan Rooney (1:02.42), Francis Adcock (1:02.43) and former Brit turned Aussie Jo Fargus (1:02.80) will make it a competitive final which will possibly see the first Aussie to go under the 1:01 barrier.