By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, March 31. EXPECTATIONS were high that the men’s 100 free would produce the swim of the night. Such is swimming — also reflected in life — that this did not occur.
The line-up for the big race included four gold medalist from the Sydney Olympics: Ian Thorpe, Ashley Callus and Michael Klim were members of the winning 400 freestyle relay, Todd Pearson swam in the heat team of that race and picked up another gold in the 800 relay along with Thorpe and Klim.
Not surprisingly, it was sprint specialist Callus who led to the turn tonight, flipping in 23.33, followed by Perth-based Jono Van Hazel (23.86), Klim (23.87) and then Thorpe (24.03). As the race unfolded the black-suited spectre of Thorpe loomed large and then passed his competition under the flags to touch in 48.83 (just 0.13 outside his PR) ahead of Callus 49.31 and Todd Pearson in 50.08.
The surprise package was 18-year-old West Aussie Eamon Sullivan (will Ireland be claiming him perhaps) who went 50.10 (p50.06), Van Hazel and Klim finished together (50.17). Klim was a medal chance until the last 25-meters when he tired noticeably having recording a 49.78 in the semifinals.
Women’s 200 Butterfly:
Petria Thomas had clocked the fifth fastest time in history in the heats yesterday, motoring to a sensational 2:06.01. Expectations were high that Thomas at the very least would break Susie O’Neill’s Aussie (and former world) record of 2:05.81 set in this pool at the Olympic Trials in 2000.
It was not to be. Thomas gave it her very best shot. She was under Pole Otylia Jedrzejczak’s WR splits until the crucial last 50-meters: 50 -0.48 (28.31), 100 -0.60 (1:00.19), 150 -0.07 (1:33.07) then +1.01 seconds to hit the wall in 2:06.79. Felicity Galvez, a Barcelona finalist in this event was dragged along by Thomas to clock a PR 2:08.33 and a place on the team to Athens – only the third Aussie to go under the 2:10 mark. Jessicah Schipper, who made the team on her second placing ahead of Libby Lenton in the 100 fly, touched third in a PR 2:09.11 – 4th fastest Aussie all-time.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke:
Local favourite Jim Piper was the favourite for this event and he didn’t disappoint. The 22-year-old took the race out fast turning in 29.61 and moving more than two body lengths ahead of the field at the half way mark, 0.03 of a second under world record pace (1:02.44). He was unable to match the back end WR performance of Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima but was sufficiently fast to break his own Aussie record by 0.08 of a second as he touched in 2:10.70.
Regan Harrison, a finalist in this event in 2000, held clear second place throughout to finish in a slightly disappointing 2:13.47. More importantly, the time was sufficient to qualify for his second Olympics. Rookie Rory Comerford carried through his form from the semifinals to take third in a PR 2:16.13.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke:
Leisel Jones posted a very swift 2:25.60 (PR 2:23.72) to head the ever-improving Brooke Hanson PR 2:26.92 (4th all-time Aussie) and World Champs rep in this event, Sarah Kasoulis, 2:30.42.
Men’s 200 Backstroke:
Local boy Andrew Burns clocked a swift 1:59.45 (3rd fastest Aussie performer) to head 2000 Olympic bronze medalist and national record-holder Matt Welsh (2:00.20) and promising Victorian Patrick Murphy (2:01.75). Ethan Rolff (2:02.19) and the 2nd fastest all-time Aussie Ray Hass (2:02.41) should also be in the mix.
Men’s 200 IM:
It has been well publicised that Ian Thorpe would not be contesting this event in Athens. For Justin Norris it was just business as usual, posting the fastest time of 2:02.29 ahead of young guns Adam Lucas, 2:03.37, and Mitchell Bacon, 2:04.13. Grant McGregor, the 2001 title-holder who had been out of the pool for some time with a serious illness posted an encouraging 2:04.19.