By Stehen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, March 27. OLYMPIC bronze medalist Justin Norris built his race to perfection producing a powerful second half to get on top of his younger rival Adam Lucas in the final lap of the 400 IM at the Australian Olympic Trials. Norris dropped just over a second off his previous best to touch in 4:15.20 – a new Commonwealth and Australian record – previously held by Canadian Curtis Myden, set at the 2000 Olympics.
Eighteen-year-old West Aussie Travis Nederpelt slashed over four seconds off his PR to follow Norris past Lucas and take the silver and most importantly, a place on the team to Athens. Nederpelt touched in 4:16.46 (3rd fastest Aussie performer) with Lucas also a PR – 4:18.02 (5th Aussie performer). For Norris, 23, it was a great return to form after a period of transition since his previous coach Mark Regan departed to work in Denmark. Norris has been working with AIS head coach Pierre La Fontaine for just over 12 months.
Men’s 400 Freestyle:
With no Ian Thorpe this time round after the drama of his prelim DQ this morning, Grant Hackett had the race to himself splitting: 53.71, 1:50.45, 2:46.94 to record an excellent 3:43.35 – his second fastest time over the distance – and just 0.84 outside his PR set at the 2001 Worlds. This is the second time Hackett has won this event having beaten a 14-year-old Ian Thorpe in 1997 while Thorpe had since ruled for the past six titles. AIS based Craig Stevens swam himself into his first Olympic team clocking 3:48.08 (just outside his PR 3:47.99) from AIS team-mate Josh Krogh (3:51.77).
Sydney Olympian Jen Reilly trimmed her own Aussie record by 0.13 when she powered away in the freestyle leg to win her sixth consecutive title in 4:40.71 from fellow West Aussie and outstanding prospect 17-year-old Lara Carroll who dropped three second off her PR to clock an impressive 4:42.35 (3rd all-time Aussie). Jessica Abbott took the bronze in 4:48.94.