By Brooke Hanson (Olympic gold and silver medallist)
SYDNEY, Australia, March 19. One of Australian swimming's rising young swim stars, Thomas Fraser-Holmes has paid tribute to a close mate who died in a tragic accident in the surf on the Gold Coast yesterday.
Minutes after Fraser-Holmes, won the 400 IM on day four of the Aussie Swimming Championships, he paid tribute to his close friend Saxon Bird.
Bird, 19, was knocked unconscious in the surf while competing in an Ironman contest at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships and later died in hospital.
He and Fraser-Holmes had raced against each other in swimming and surf lifesaving events since they were boys.
An emotional Fraser-Holmes dedicated his inaugural Australian title to Bird, who had spent the last 12 months training at my old club at Warringah Aquatic Centre.
He touched the wall to make the Australian Commonwealth Games team for Delhi and looked to the heavens as if to say "this is for you mate."
Many swimmers in Australia contest both stillwater and surf lifesaving events throughout their careers with so many of our Olympians, like Beijing Open Water star Ky Hurst, emerging from surf clubs and combining both sports.
Fraser-Holmes himself came from a surf lifesaving background and has won many gold medals with the famous Manly Life Saving Club before launching his career to make the London Olympics.
Meanwhile, Australia's Olympic 100m freestyle silver medallist Eamon Sullivan overcame the odds to clock the fastest time in the world this year winning the men's 100m freestyle in a time of 48.52.
Olympic golden girl Stephanie Rice (57.71) caused an upset in the women's 100m butterfly recording the best time in the world this year with Olympic bronze medallist Jessicah Schipper finishing with bronze behind dual Olympian Felicity Galvez.
Men's 100m Freestyle
Outside of the pool Eamon Sullivan has impressed the judges on Australian Celebrity Master Chef, taking out the series with his outstanding culinary skills.
But inside the pool the Aussie sprint king cooked up a storm with an impressive performance in the blue-ribboned event.
The talk around pool deck has been about whether the champion would race this week as recurring hip injuries were again bringing him down.
After recovering from his fifth hip operation Sullivan looked in doubt only days ago, suffering constant soreness from the injury that sidelined him from the 2009 World Championships and forced him on to the operating table.
The Australian team was thrilled when Sullivan 48.52 (23.02) put his pain aside to win the 100m freestyle final in style, flying through the first 50 in just over 23 seconds.
Sullivan beat World Championship bronze medallist in the 800m freestyle relay Tommaso D'Orsogna (49.35), James Magnussen (49.43), Kyle Richardson (49.47), winner of the 2009 Youth Olympics Luke Kerswell (49.55) and 2008 Olympian Andrew Lauterstein (49.62).
After strong performances in the heats and the semi final all eyes were on Sullivan land the crowd got right behind him. After the race Sullivan was happy that he was back racing.
"I got into taper mode ignored the lack of work I've done over the past few months and enjoyed getting in the pool and racing," he said
"The day before the meet I was 90 percent sure I was pulling out of the meet as the hip has been really bothering me but at the end of the day it was about getting through four days of racing and dealing with the pain later," a happy Sullivan said after his win.
"The hope of one year having an injury free run is what's keeps me going."
You and the rest of us "Sullo", we can't wait until he can show the world his very best in the 100m freestyle, after winning silver n Beijing.
Not better place to shine than at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Women's 100m butterfly
With teen queen Yolane Kukla withdrawing to focus on the 50m freestyle semi final all eyes were on triple Olympic medallist Stephanie Rice and world champion Jessicah Schipper.
But it was dual Olympian Felicity Galvez who was first off the blocks using her strong underwater work to get ahead; Schipper was first at the 50m mark turning in 27.37.
With 15 metres to go Rice (57.71) powered to the wall winning the event in ahead of Galvez (58.20) with Schipper (58.41) finishing third.
Rice bounced out of the pool with a huge grin on her face after claiming her first national title in the 100m butterfly.
"The 100 fly is fun for me, I don't put pressure on myself as it's not one of my main focus races," said Rice
"I'm really happy to go 57.7 as it's pretty much the same time as I went in the LZR last year.
"I was disappointed that I had to pull out of the 100m fly at last year's Worlds as it was the same day as the 200m IM so I'm really excited to race it at an international level."
Men's 400m individual medley
Three new rookies made the Australian teams for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships.
It was an emotional day of highs and lows for 20-year-old Thomas Fraser-Holmes after the tragic death of a close mate 19-year-old Saxton Bird at the Australian Surf Life Saving Titles.
As well as losing his close friend Fraser-Holmes was disqualified for his backstroke to breaststroke turn in this morning's heats.
He was then reinstated after protesting with video footage. (A milestone in itself!!)
The all-rounder put the drama behind him and focused on winning the final for his mate.
Fraser-Holmes led from start to finish swimming away from the field and winning by almost four seconds. The Australian Institute of sport swimmer stopped the clock at 4.16.81 (57.51, 2.01.81, 3.16.24).
He saw the result, a personal best time by more than three seconds then looked to the heavens blowing kisses to his late mate.
Fraser-Holmes swam the fifth fastest time all time by an Australian and recorded the fastest time in the world this year.
"I'm really pleased with that effort, it's unreal to be on my first Australian team and to go away to the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pac's with guys like Eamon Sullivan is really inspiring to go back and train harder," said the popular Fraser-Holmes.
"My heart goes out to the Bird family; one of my best mates Saxton passed away this morning in the surf which we both loved, so I really feel for the whole family," said Fraser-Holmes."
Sixteen-year-old Jayden Hadler (4.20.79) finished second with fellow Queensland teenager Mitchell Larkin (4.21.54) winning the bronze medal from lane one.
Jarrod Killey (4.23.00) a surf club Manly team mate with Fraser-Holmes and also a great mate of the surf lifesaver Saxton Bird finished fifth, a gallant effort after such an upsetting day.
Semi Final Action
Men's 50m Breaststroke
World champion and world record holder in the 100m breaststroke Brenton Rickard (28.02) qualified first for the final in the men's 50m breaststroke ahead of Christian Sprenger (28.28). Rickard looks too good this week and I think he'll go under 28 seconds and win another title.
Women's 50m backstroke
Emily Seebohm (28.11) will be looking at winning her third gold of the championships in the women's 50m backstroke with Melbourne teenager Grace Loh (28.67) qualifying in second position ahead of Olympians Belinda Hocking (28.71) and Sophie Edington (28.75) the former world record holder. There is no stopping Seebohm I'm tipping her to win her third gold of the week.
Women's 100m breaststroke
Breaststroker Leisel Jones (1.07.76) cruised through the semi final of her favourite event ahead to teenager Samantha Marshall (1.07.85) who swam a personal best time ahead of 200m silver medallist Sarah Katsoulis (1.08.22). You can't go past Jones in the final but we will have to wait and see if she can swim faster than 1.06.43 that Rebecca Soni swam earlier in the year.
Men's 100m backstroke
Australian Institute of Sport backstroke boys continued their rivalry with bronze medallist at the Beijing Olympic Games Hayden Stoeckel (54.09) securing the top qualifying position ahead of fellow Olympian Ashley Delaney (54.11). I'm tipping my old training partner Ashley Delaney to get in the way of Stoeckel making a clean sweep of the backstroke events.
Women's 50m freestyle
Making up for the disappointment of missing the 100m freestyle final Cate Campbell showed her class clocking a time of 25.13. The Olympic bronze medallist will be pushed in the final by Olympian Sally Foster (25.21) who has changed her focus from breaststroke to sprint freestyle and teenage star Yolane Kukla (25.26). The difference between Campbell's long lean body and Kukla's short strong frame is unbelievable they are such different swimmers I'm tipping the 14-year-old Kukla. Go "Yo Yo".
Men's 100m butterfly
The final is shaping up to be the event of night five with 200m champion Nick D'Arcy (52.72) qualifying first for the final ahead of Mitchell Patterson (52.85), Chris Wright (52.90), Geoff Huegill (52.94) and Andrew Lauterstein (52.99). After Huegill's performance in the 50m butterfly my money is on the bronze medallist from this event at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games almost ten years ago, go for gold Skippy!