By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, March 30. IAN Thorpe, the best middle-distance freestyler in the world, will have more time to devote to training for the two-lap race now that the 400 free appears to be out of his reach in Athens.
Thorpe moved into the final of the two-lap sprint in impressive style as fastest qualifier in a sharp 49.24. He heads a class field including three other Olympic gold medalists: Ashley Callus (49.59), Todd Pearson and former world record-holder Michael Klim (49.78) after a good comeback performance. Queenslander Andrew Mewing swam a PR 49.98 to also make it under the 50-second mark.
Women’s 200 Butterfly:
In the prelims this morning Petria Thomas swam the fifth fastest time in history powering to a sensational 2:06.01. Tonight she followed the difficult path set by her predecessor Susie O’Neill – having to swim the 200 fly just half an hour after clocking 1:58.56 in the 200 free final. At the Olympic trials here in 2000, O’Neill set the Australian record in the free before going on to break the fly world record the following evening. Thomas took the silver in the free tonight and was not challenged here to clock a very respectable 2:10.81. The battle for the second position on the team will come from world champs finalist Felicity Galvez (2:11.49), Rachel Coffee (2:12.79) and the silver medallist in the 100 fly Jessicah Schipper (2:13.74).
Men’s 200 Breaststroke:
Jim Piper, the Australian record-holder for this event, was fastest qualifier in a very solid 2:12.18 from 2000 Olympic silver medalist, Regan Harrison (2:13.08). Eighteen-year-old rookie Rory Comerford gave himself an outside chance with a PR 2:16.63 (having made the semifinals last year). Brenton Rickard (PR 2:16.90), the national record-holder for the two-lap race, will be trying hard having missed a place in the team in his preferred event.