By Stephen J. Thomas
MELBOURNE, Australia, February 1. IT was that Jones girl again, a confident and more relaxed Leisel Jones that cruised to a sensational world-record win in the 200 breaststroke race tonight, clocking 2:20.54. The old record was 2:21.72, set in Montreal last summer at the World Championships.
WR Splits 50m: 32.19 100m: 1:08.52 150m: 1:45.02 200m: 2:20.54
The signs were there in the 50 sprint on the first night of competition when she clocked a PR of 30.85. Tonight the 20-year-old Queenslander took the race out very fast, .19 under her WR split at the 50 in 32.19, but dropped under WR pace through the next 100 (behind 0.51 at the 150). She turned on the burners in the final lap clocking a sensational 35.52.
Jones holds four of the top ten performances over four-laps which equals that of American record-holder Amanda Beard but Jones has certainly increased the gap on her rival over the past twelve months. Beard’s American record stands at 2:22.44.
The battle for second place was a dramatic struggle with 20-year-old Sally Foster getting past the more experienced Brooke Hanson under the flags to touch in a PR of 2:27.71 to Hanson’s 2:27.88.
Look out for Jones in the 100, for in this form she will be a big chance to regain her world mark taken by Jessica Hardy in Montreal.
The final of the women’s 100 freestyle was always going to be a battle between the three fastest women in the world in 2005 – last evening’s world record-holder Libby Lenton, Olympic and world champion Jodie Henry, and Alice Mills, the reigning title-holder. Would we see a repeat of history, as in the 2004 Olympic trials where Lenton set a world record in the semis only to be beaten by Henry in the final? Not this time around. Lenton’s impressive recent form held her in good stead as she flipped first in 25.69 with Mills next in 25.95 and Henry not too far adrift in 26.19. Lenton held her form in the homeward stretch to record another sensational time of 53.67 (just 0.25 outside her WR set last night and the 4th fastest in history) and amazingly her first 100 freestyle title. Jodie Henry also produced an eye-catching effort of 53.85 just one stroke behind, the 8th fastest performance all-time, suggesting she will again be “very competitive” at the Commonwealth Games in five weeks. Mills took the bronze in a very tidy 54.21 with world champs relay teammate Shayne Reese next in 55.47 just outlasting Melanie Schlanger (55.54).
Veteran Michael Klim won his first 50 fly title at the age of twenty-eight, clocking 23.90 to edge out former world record-holder Matt Welsh by just .01. Auburn’s Aussie import Matt Targett finished in the third spot in 24.00 (fourth all-time Aussie performer). Eight-time winner of this title Geoff Huegill was out of the money in 24.10.
Tay Zimmer edged out her training partner Sophie Edington in the 100 backstroke taking the gold and Edington’s Aussie record by just .06 to touch in 1:01.03. Edington clocked 1:01.38 for silver with four-time winner Giaan Rooney next in 1:01.86.
Australian 100 breaststroke record-holder Brenton Rickard posted his second time under 1:01 to take his second consecutive title in 1:00.97, beating off a challenge from newcomer Christian Sprenger (PR, 1:01.32) and Jim Piper (1:01.75).
Seventeen year-old Ephraim Hannant made an impressive step in his swimming career producing a strong back half after a slow start to take the 200 backstroke in a PR of 2:00.46. Hannant moved from the Gold Coast this year where he trained under distance coach Denis Cotterell to the AIS in Canberra and the guidance of Doug Frost. Training partners Hayden Stoeckel (2:01.14) and Ethan Rolff (2:1.41) took the minor places. Five-time winner, 29-year-old Matt Welsh tired in the final 50 to finish sixth.
In the semifinals tonight:
Men’s 100 freestyle
The Olympic bronze medalist Ian Thorpe looked very comfortable tonight, easily the fastest qualifier, powering away to record a 48.86 (split 23.74) and suggested after his race he had something up his long back sleaves for the final. Next was 20-year-old West Aussie sprinter Eamon Sullivan who clocked a PR of 49.33 to move to fifth fastest on the all-time list. Ashley Callus was next in 49.50, then former world record-holder Michael Klim (49.62) and Aussie 50 record-holder Brett Hawke (49.91).
Women’s 100 Butterfly
World champion Jessicah Schipper looked in fine form going in as fastest qualifier tomorrow night in 58.04 from Alice Mills (58.87), Felicity Galvez (59.20), Stephanie Rice (59.87) and Libby Lenton cruising after her freestyle win in 59.92.