By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, April 2. DISTANCE king Grant Hackett qualified fastest for the 1500 freestyle final tomorrow night with an effortless 15:23.05 heat swim ahead of his surf lifesaving-based training partner, Ky Hurst.
Hurst, who just might have gone out a little too hard, was next in 15:26.46, then open water swimmer Grant Cleland 15:32.38, Travis Nederpelt 15:36.20 (an Olympic qualifier in the 400 IM and 200 Fly) and 400 qualifier (in the absence of Ian Thorpe) Craig Stevens (15:38.14). Canadian Kurtis MacGillivary, who swam 15:11.38, also trains with Grant Hackett under coach Denis Cotterell but cannot swim the finals.
Women’s 50 Freestyle:
Michelle Engelsman did not better her very swift NR 24.83 this morning but still managed 24.92 to be the fastest qualifier, but she will be challenged by her main rivals Alice Mills (25.12) and the 100 free world record-holder Libby Lenton (25.14) and perhaps Jodie Henry (25.43) in what should be a very hot final.
Women’s 50 Breaststroke:
After setting a new national record in the morning heats 30.92, Brooke Hanson clocked 30.99 tonight to be fastest qualifier ahead of Leisel Jones, 31.47, and Sarah Kasoulis, PR 31.78. Jenny Whiteley, the 45-year-old Australian Masters Athlete of the Year, clocked 36.29 – not far outside her national Masters age record of 35.99.
Men’s 50 Backstroke:
National and Commonwealth record-holder Matt Welsh will be the odds-on favourite to win his sixth dorsal dash tomorrow after clocking the fastest qualifying time – 25.80. His main competition will come from Northern NSW training partners Josh Watson (25.92) and Ethan Rolff (26.28).