Sydney, Australia, November 20. THREE of Australia's most seasoned competitors — dual Olympians Michael Klim, Petria Thomas and Sarah Ryan — are all aiming to make a successful return to the pool next week with the ultimate goal of Athens squarely in their sights. For both Klim and Thomas it has been an enforced layoff after shoulder surgery, while for Ryan it was more about taking time out to explore career aspirations in commercial radio.
For 26-year-old Michael Klim, there has been little opportunity to compete injury free since the 2000 Olympics. It has been more than a year since he made a fleeting return to national competition and his last major international meet was the 2001 World Champs where he struggled with an ankle injury but still managed to bring home two gold medals as a key part of the two freestyle relay teams. Since that time his absence has been a huge loss to the Aussie team while he has battled first a serious back, then shoulder injuries.
This year Klim has spent months working patiently on the rehab of his shoulder and the signs have been looking good. A couple of weeks ago he splashed out a swift 48.7 over the 100 free (SCM) at a club meet in his home town of Melbourne, but since then he has been 'feeling' his shoulder a little which has raised some doubt about his immediate comeback at the World Cup meet in Melbourne to be held on 28-30 November.
Klim’s coach, Ian Pope, told SwimInfo yesterday that his shoulder was feeling a little loose at the moment and that he would not risk competing next week if it was not one hundred percent. "His focus is on building for the Olympic trials in March and being right for Athens. If he is not ready here, then he won't compete. He is doing a good job staying positive and keeping it all in perspective," Pope reflected. Klim has already shelved plans to attend the World Cup meet in Durban, South Africa, which follows the Melbourne event.
The iron woman of Australian swimming, Petria Thomas is also back in the pool after a successful recovery from her third shoulder reconstruction in April. The 28-year-old decided to skip the World Champs in Barcelona, where she was the defending title-holder in the 100-200 fly, to correct an ongoing problem with her left shoulder and ensure she would be able to give her absolute best towards going for gold in Athens. A
ccording to her coach at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Glenn Beringen, Thomas is well ahead of best expectations in her recovery and although she still needs time to get back to peak fitness, she has already been clocking some promising times in both fly and free at training.
Thomas will swim the butterfly event in the Qantas Skins next week against two of the young pretenders to her throne, teenagers Jessicah Schipper (17) and Felicity Galvez (18), as well as Swedish star Anna-Karin Kammerling, the world record-holder at 50 meters short course. Then later in the week in Melbourne, she plans to give her shoulder a real test – scheduled to swim the 50-100-200 treble in free and fly.
Since 1994, Thomas has won three World, three Pan Pac and nine Commonwealth gold medals, as well as three Olympic silver medals and a bronze, but like Michael Klim, that illusive individual Olympic gold is still a huge motivation to continue to push the pain barrier.
Freestyle sprinter Sarah Ryan will also be taking to the blocks again next week after a spell from the pool for different reasons. After being selected in the Aussie team for Barcelona, Ryan surprised with a decision to pull out of the squad to concentrate on establishing a career in commercial radio. The 26-year-old, who has been based at the AIS in Canberra for most of her swimming career, had continued to visit the pool and gym to keep in touch with her fitness, albeit spasmodically by her own admission.
Last month Ryan decided to step up the pool sessions under coach Glenn Beringen to see what level of condition she could achieve while balancing a full-time job. "I am fitting in as many sessions into my week as I can around my job right now but working the breakfast shift means I can't do as much as I did in the past," Ryan said. She will swim at the Qantas Skins in the freestyle sprint event and then compete in Melbourne and has taken time off work to attend a national camp in Queensland that will follow the meet.