By Belinda Dennett and Kurt Hanson
MELBOURNE, Dec. 5. AUSTRALIAN Olympians Grant Hackett, Michael Klim and Matt Welsh turned in stellar performances on the first night of competition of the
Telstra FINA World Cup 5 at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
In the men's 400 meter freestyle, a rejuvenated Grant Hackett surprised even himself in swimming the fastest 400m short course time of the season in 3:42.49. Returning from a four-week training break, the Olympic gold medalist showed off his new Speedo "Sunset Fastskin" suit in the final to take the confidence building win ahead of France's Olivier Saminadin and Australia's Grant McGregor.
Diane Bui-Duyet of France took out the women's 50 meter butterfly in a time of 27.65 with Queensland's Nicole Irvine touching out Julia Ham for second in 27.73 seconds.
In the men's 200m fly, Australian champion Greg Shaw continued his winning form taking first place in the time of 1:56.60 seconds with Grant McGregor, backing up only minutes after a bronze in the 400m freestyle to finish second in 1:59.44 and NSW Institute of Sport swimmer Matthew Hall third.
China's Xuejuan Lou burnt the field in the women's 100m breaststroke, leading from start to finish, to set a new championship record of 1:06.18 with American Amy Balcerzak second ahead of Victorian Brooke Hanson. Lou's time made her the third fastest swimmer in history behind world record holder Penny Heyns and Australia's Samantha Riley, the only women ever to break 1:06.00.
Canadian Olympic 100m breaststroke finalist, Morgan Knabe, continued his successful World Cup campaign, touching out Italy's Davide Cassol and triple Olympian Phil Rogers with a time of 27.97 to take the 50 meter breaststroke.
Australia's 1998 World Championship representative, Rebecca Creedy, apparently has put the disappointment of missing Olympic selection well behind her. Tonight she returned to form to win the 100m freestyle in 55.40, defeating fellow Australians Giaan Rooney and Elka Graham into the minor placings. Stern words from coach John Rodgers before the race "to get out after it" in the first 50m set the win up.
Despite suffering a recurrence of his back problem and swimming in unfamiliar territory by drawing lane 1 for the final, Michael Klim produced the third fastest 100 meter freestyle time of the season to win in 47.98 seconds. In the second display of the Speedo "Sunset" suit of the evening, Klim kept the trend of victory alive defeating US Olympian, Jason Lezak (48.18) and Australian Olympian Adam Pine (48.68). "My back is not in a very good state but I wanted to swim in Melbourne and surprise a few people, which I did," Klim said after the race. Lezak, who will contest the Qantas Skins in Sydney on Saturday night, clocked a personal best time, just 24 hours after arriving from Los Angeles.
South Australia's Meagan McMahon found the 400 IM form that made her a dominant contender during her 1999 World Cup campaign in Europe. Her convincing win in the final with a time of 4:42.87 drove home second placed, Georgie Bartlett of the Melbourne Vicentre and comeback queen, Lori Munz. "My aim was to get in there and have a good swim, which I did," said McMahon.
Australian Olympian Rob Van der Zant charged home to win the men's 100m individual medley in a time of 55.17, defeating Italy's Davide Cassol and Grant McGregor who scored his third medal of the night. Van Der Zant, the current Australian champion, continued his outstanding IM form of recent years and will also contest the Mystery Medley in Saturday's Qantas Skins Meet.
Fifteen year-old Kelly Tucker from Kincumber, NSW led from the women's 200m backstroke from start to finish in winning the event with the time of 2:09.97 ahead of Tamara Leane (AUS) and Hannah McLean (NZL). "I felt good in the heats, this is my best time and my next goal is to make the World Championships next year," Tucker said afterwards. It followed her silver medal winning swim in this event at the FINA World Cup in Edmonton.
Melbourne's own Matt Welsh defied doctors' orders just to compete in front of his home crowd having spent the week in bed with a virus, and was rewarded by taking out the men's 50m backstroke in a world class time of 24.17. Welsh, wearing the jammer suit, did not let his fellow teammates down in making it a trifecta for the "retro racers." The minor places went to, Victorian Ray Hass second and New Zealand's, Scott Talbot-Cameron third. "It's great to perform well here. It will help me with a bit of confidence for the rest of the meet and who knows?," Welsh said giving an indication of possible things to come.
Sydney Olympian, Sarah-Jane D'Arcy continued her consistent form to take the 800m freestyle in a time of, 8:33.66. Fellow Australians, Amanda Pascoe and Emily Pedrazzini finished in the minor placings.