By Stephen J Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, March 28. FOUR-TIME Olympic medalist Petria Thomas booked her seat on the plane to Athens for her third Olympic Games when she produced another powerful swim in the 100 fly trimming 0.03 of a second off her prelim time last night to touch in 57.36.
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)-based Thomas, who finished 4th in this event at the Sydney Olympics, turned in 27.06, well in advance of Queenslanders Libby Lenton (27.60) and Jessicah Schipper (27.60). It was the 17-year-old Schipper, coached by the vastly experienced Ken Wood that came home over the top of the more favoured Lenton to take second in a PR 59.19 to Lenton's 59.34. Lenton would certainly be disappointed with her race after clocking a very impressive 58.20 in the semifinal – the second fastest Aussie performer all-time ahead of the great Susie O'Neill.
Women’s 400 Freestyle:
Linda Mackenzie, the 163cm pocket-rocket from North Queensland but now training at the AIS in Canberra, produced an eye-catching swim to defeat Elka Graham a world champs finalist and winner of this event for the past two years. Mackenzie has been showing signs of the potential to step-up a gear this year with several good swims while under a tough work program from coach Pierre La Fontaine.
The 20-year-old Mackenzie certainly produced the goods tonight, just trailing the earlier leader Kasey Giteau to the 150-mark where she took off leaving Graham with much to do at the 200-mark (2:04.86 to 2:06.20). Graham usually produces a strong second half but Mackenzie was up to the challenge finishing in a PR 4:09.23 – almost three seconds under the 4:12.16 she swam behind Graham at this meet last year to make the World Champs team – and moving her to 5th Aussie all-time performer. Graham finished in 4:11.26 to also qualify for her first individual event in an Olympics – she was selected on the 2000 team as a relay swimmer. Another Pierre La Fontaine coached swimmer, distance specialist Sarah Paton, took third in a PR 4:13.63.
Women’s 50 Backstroke:
Giaan Rooney easily took her second consecutive title in this event just 0.02 of a second outside the Commonwealth and National record she set in the prelims yesterday hitting the wall in 28.53 well in front of her Melbourne Vicentre team-mates Amy Cockerton (29.62) and Rachel Goh (30.03). Sophie Edington, Marieke Guehrer and Belinda Nevell skipped the final of this non-Olympic event to conserve energy for the 100 backstroke swum just 20-minutes later.
Men’s 100 Breaststroke:
Jim Piper, the Aussie record-holder over four laps tonight went just 0.01 of a second short of Brenton Rickard’s national standard for this distance when he produced a strong second final lap to record a convincing win in a PR 1:01.38. Piper had turned in 28.81, behind Brenton Rickard (28.25) and Mark Riley (28.60) with the Sydney Olympian Regan Harrison back in 5th place. At the wall though it was Harrison, a noted 200 swimmer, that powered home to take second in a PR 1:01.93 over Riley (PR 1:02.05) and Rickard (1:02.39).
Men’s 50 Butterfly:
After a slow start, Geoff Huegill gathered up Matt Welsh under the flags to win his eighth consecutive national title in this event, clocking 23.83 (prelim 23.77). Welsh touched in 24.17 with David Carter third in 24.22.