By Ian Hanson
OSAKA, May 21. SYDNEY'S emerging swim star Jimmy Piper, the "Kid from Campbelltown," has put the pressure right back on Australia’s top breaststrokers Simon Cowley and Regan Harrison, after his world class swim on the opening night of the East Asian Games tonight.
In a successful night for the young Australians, Gold Coaster Leigh McBean also finished second in the men’s 200m freestyle, clocking a personal best time of 1:51.86 – beaten a touch by China’s Yu Liu (1:51.71), with Australia’s Nic Williams fourth in 1:52.40 – just outside his best time.
The Australian women’s 4x200m freestyle team of Kate Krywulycz (2:02:44), Lara Davenport (2:02.64), Tammie Smith (2:01.89) and Felicity Galvez (2:04.55) finished third behind the fast finishing China and Japan teams in a time of 8:11.52.
Piper, who missed World Championship selection by just 0.09 of second in Hobart in March, clocked one of the fastest times in the world this year in the 100 meter breaststroke final.
His time, 1:02.15 is half-a-second under his previous best time and the third fastest time ever clocked by an Australian – only bettered by Australian record holder and triple Olympian Phil Rogers and 1999 Pan Pacific champion Simon Cowley.
The time would have seen Piper in second place at the Australian championships, behind Cowley and in front of Harrison.
His time was just 0.01 faster than both Harrison and two-time Olympian Ryan Mitchell’s 1:02.16.
Piper swam brilliantly and took it right to eventual winner, Japan’s Olympic fourth-placegetter Kosuke Kitajima and led at the first 50m in 28.95 – the fourth fastest 50m swim by an Australian and 0.41 faster than he had swum before.
Kitajima came back at Piper in the final 50 meters after Piper’s brilliant turn and the pair swam stroke for stroke until the Japanese champion out-touched the Australian on the wall by just 0.15 – in a time of 1:02.00.
Both swimmers clocked under the previous East Asian Games record, set by Kitajima in today’s heats. Kitajima will now represent Japan at the World Championships in Fukuoka.
Chinese pair Qilang Zeng (1:03.06) and Yi Zhu (1:03.22) earned the silver and bronze medals respectively. Australia’s Jarrad Church was sixth in a PB of 1:04.39.
The 19-year-old Piper, who is coached by the affable Alan Thompson, came to Osaka determined to swim personal best times after just missing the Dolphins team for this year’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in July.
"The East Asian Games in Osaka is my world championship and that time is something I’ve been working towards, I’m very happy and looking towards my favourite event, the 200m later in the week," said Piper.
"I want to try and force my way on to the Australian team for this year’s Goodwill Games in Brisbane and I guess that’s a pretty good start."
Even though Piper and McBean finished second they were unable to collect the silver medals, as the Australian team competing in these East Asian Games are competing as visitors in what is referred to here as "Open Competition".
The Australian placegetters Piper, McBean and the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team were presented with commemorative gifts – plates and the Games mascot Naiwachi – "a water sprite" by the East Asian Games Organizing Committee and stood alongside the three placegetters on a special presentation dias and walked with the medal winners around the pool, to the boisterous applause of the 30-strong vocal Australian team.
In the first event of the evening, the women’s 100 meter freestyle final, Queensland’s Melinda Geraghty (57.52) and Victoria’s Jordana Webb (57.99) finished sixth and eighth respectively, behind China’s Yanwei Xu, who clocked a new East Asian Games record of 55.02.
Japan’s Olympic finalist Sumika Minamoto (56.28) won silver and her teammate Tomoko Nagai (56.68) took bronze.
In the women’s 400 meter individual medley, Australia’s Yvette Rodier finished fourth in 4:54.46, with team mate Georgie Bartlett 6th in 4:58.80.
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