By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, March 30. BROOKE Hanson continued on her giant killing way tonight with a very impressive win over Barcelona silver medalist Alice Mills. Last night the 26-year-old Hanson (pictured right)convincingly beat the world record-holder and Olympic and world champs silver medalist Leisel Jones in a personal best time that elevated her to second fastest Aussie performer in the 100 breaststroke.
Tonight, Hanson who came into this Olympic qualifying meet with a PR of 2:16.01 was lining up against the 17-year-old Alice Mills who had set a new Australian and Commonwealth record (2:12.14) in the semi-finals last night. First, the swimmers were asked to step down from the blocks when there was a problem with the starting equipment, then Hanson appeared to miss the start but still managed to turn in second place after the fly behind Mills.
Hanson dropped back in 4th place after the backstroke, almost 2-seconds behind the leader Mills, then Hanson made her move in her signature stroke moving past Mills to turn just over half a second in front. Mills was the silver medallist from Barcelona in the 50 free but was unable to make any impression on her older rival. Hanson touched in 2:13.14 – second Aussie all-time performer, with Mills a disappointing 2:13.83 — but she will be there to battle again in Athens.
West Aussie rookie Lara Carroll, who has already made the team courtesy of her second place in the 400IM, was third in a PR 2:14.24.
Women’s 200 Freestyle:
This race was expected to be a battle between the in-form Petria Thomas who clocked a 1:58.20 (2nd best Aussie performer) last night to qualify fastest and Elka Graham a world champs finalist last year and the title holder for the past three years (with a PR 1:58.54 from ‘01). The super fit Linda Mackenzie the winner of the 400 free over Graham was also expected to give a good account of herself.
Thomas led from Graham at the 50-mark 27.66 to 27.94, Shayne Reese (28.02) and Linda Mackenzie (28.03) followed. Thomas pulled away to flip at the 100 in 57.84 with the others in a tight bunch led by Reese (58.12).
At the 150, Graham (1:28.54) had almost caught Thomas (1:28.53) and Mackenzie was moving into contention at 1:28.68. As the worked down the final lap Thomas and Graham were stroke for stroke in lanes 4 and 5, perhaps failing to notice Mackenzie, the pocket rocket from Mackay, North Queensland, steal past under the flags and take a famous victory over her better know rivals in a PR 1:58.52 (3rd all-time Aussie performer). Thomas was only 0.04 away in second (1:58.56) and Graham relegated to a relay swim taking third place in 1:58.70. Shayne Reese (2:00.16), former world champ Giaan Rooney (2:00.43) and 16-year-old Mel Mitchell (2:00.49) will be in the mix for relay positions.
However, in the heats two other team certainties clocked outstanding times Jodie Henry went 1:59.23 and Libby Lenton 1:59.94. The Aussies now have six swimmers that have been under 2-minutes going to Athens.
Men’s 200 Butterfly:
Justin Norris arrived on the world swimming stage when he held on to take the bronze medal in this event at the Sydney Olympics from lane eight. Tonight Norris was the fast favourite in lane four but was pushed all the way home by 18-year-old Travis Nederpelt, who had also taken silver behind Norris in the 400IM. Norris led at every turn but could not shake his younger rival finishing in his second fastest time 1:56.25 (just 0.08 outside his Aussie record set in his Olympic swim). Nederpelt finished in PR 1:56.96 to earn his second individual swim in Athens with Joshua Krough not far outside his best in 1:58.88.
This double victory by Norris and Mackenzie(pictured below)was a personal triumph for their coach Pierre Lafontaine from the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. The French Canadian moved with his wife and family from Arizona two years ago and took over the head coaching position at the AIS after the departure of Mark Regan at the end of 2002.