By Stephen J. Thomas
BRISBANE, Januaray 6. YOU could forgive the unrivaled king of distance swimming if he eased back into competition after the holiday break.
However, this night Grant Hackett posted a very swift 1:46.65 in the final of the 200 meter freestyle, a performance that bettered the time he swam for bronze at the World Champs last year. Only four other swimmers have ever gone faster: Ian Thorpe, Pieter van den Hoogenband, Michael Phelps and Massi Rosolino. Hackett's World Champs 800 free relay gold medalist teammate, Nick Sprenger, 18, took second over three seconds adrift in 1:50.23.
This is an Olympic year and clearly Hackett is getting serious early.
The 23-year-old Queenslander sent out a message to his rivals on the
first night of this competion. Having shaved his head for the meet
and having declared that this was not a time to look pretty, he clocked
another world class swim in the 400 free, 3:46.79.
It will be interesting to see how his big Aussie rival Ian Thorpe replies at the New South Wales titles next week.
Comebacker Petria Thomas, the 28-year-old, continued to impress taking out the 200 free in a fast time of 2:00.69, less than a second outside her PR of 1:59.77 from Pan Pacs in 2002. She beat the teen sprint pair of Libby Lenton (2:02.44) and Jodie Henry (2:02.61).
Olympic bronze medalist Justin Norris splashed a fast 1:58.21 to win the 200 fly with ease. Norris set an Aussie record 1:56.17 taking the bronze in 2000. In the women's event, World Champs butterfly specialist Jessica Shipper won in 2:13.45. However the dual Olympic medalist in this event, Petria Thomas, scratched from the final after clocking a superior
2:11.81 in the heats.
Papua new Guinea's Ryan Pini became the first non-Aussie to win an event here as he stroked to a national record 26.37 in the 50m back.
US Juniors Impress
The US Junior National team continued to swim well. In the 50m back, won by Aussie Belinda Nevell in 29.39, 15 year-old Skye Elbert took the silver in 30.18. Teammate Melissa Marik, also 15, was fourth in 30.34.
Gil Stovall, 17, took third in the 200 fly in a swift 2:00.87. In prelims, Ricky Berens, 15, qualified fifth in 2:03.47 and Mike Klueh, 16, was sixth in 2:03.56 but neither swam the finasl.
For the US girls, Amanda Sims, 14, was fourth in the 200 fly (2:18.09) while Julia Smit, 15, took fifth in the 200 free (2:03.20) and Kate Dwelley, 14, was eighth (2:03.96).
The American boys' team placed fourth and fifth in the 50 back, with Dan Rohleder, 17, clocking 26.96 and Caleb McDermott, 16, right behind in 27.08. In the 200 free, Garrett Wagner qualified eighth in 1:53.94.