Hackett Shines at Queensland Age Group and Open Champs

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA, Jan. 9. GRANT Hackett went for a swim in the final race of the final day of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

When he emerged 14:48.33 later he had the gold medal. But he was dissatisfied he hadn't broken countryman Kieren Perkins' world record of 14:41.66 from the Commonwealth Gamess in Victoria, British Columbia six years earlier.

Some 10 months later, Hackett took care of that little piece of business by blasting Perkins' name from the record books with his 14:34.56 at the World Championships in Fukuoka.

Along the way he split 7:44.47 for his initial 800 meters, by far the fastest 800 ever swum in a mile race.

So what does he do for an encore? Take the next year off, go surfing, sleep 'till noon?

Un uh.

Hackett's back in the pool training for the Commonwealth Games this summer in Manchester, England and also has his eye on Barcelona (next year's World
Championships) and the 2004 Olympics in Athens — not to mention the World Short Course Championshps in Moscow starting in less than three months.

For his Y2K+2 season-opener here at the Chandler Aquatic Centre's swift 50 meter pool during the Queensland Open and Age Group Championships, the
21-year-old Hackett went a "nice and easy" 7:56.44 800 opening day (Monday) to win by more than 10 seconds over 26-year-old Daniel Kowalski's 8:07.27.

The meet continues through Sunday.

Kowalski has been out with injuries for a couple of years and hopes to come back and make the team to Manchester, which will be selected off Australia's
Championships beginning March 18.

Hackett's pr is 7:40.34, which earned him the silver at Fukuoka, 1.18 seconds behind world record-setter's Ian Thorpe's 7:39.16 — the two fastest 800s of

Hackett also went a 1:48.40 to win the 200 free this evening. His pr is 1:46.11 from last year. In 1999, Hackett led off his Miami team's 800 free relay in 1:46.67 which, at the time, was a world record. It was later eclipsed by Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband's 1:45.35 that won at Sydney, and Thorpe's 1:44.06 from Fukuoka.

Still, Hackett's prs — including a 3:42.51 400 free that got him silver at Fukuoka behind you-know-who's 3:40.17 world-record — are incredible swims. Not even Thorpe has the range to go a 1:46.1 200 and a 14:34 mile — at least not yet.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how motivated Hackett remains in the next couple of years. Knocking 14 seconds off a mile is no mean feat. If he keeps up this pace — which no one realistically expects — he'll be going faster than his 14:10.10 short course WR come Athens! (Of course, that record may fall at Moscow too.)

Another outstanding performance was turned in by sprinter Ashley Callus, who clocked a pr 22.37 to win the 50 free.

The 22-year-old Redlands swimmer, who's been a member of Australia's Olympic and World Championship 400 free relays the last two years, lowered his old pr and Queensland state record of 22.42 from the Fukuoka prelims.

Next on his agenda will be the Australia record of 22.18 by former Auburn University star Brett Hawke, also done at the World Championshps.

World Champion Geoff Huegill (50 fly) won his specialty in 24.27, about a second off his global mark of 23.44 from the Fukuoka semis. He won in 23.50, No. 2 all-time.

Huegill also won the 100 fly in 52.79, less than a second off his pr (and No. 2 performance of all-time) 51.96 from the Sydney semis. The world record belongs to countryman Michael Klim (51.81), done in a time trial in December of 1999.

In the Open 100 breast, 18-year-old Brenton Rickard went a pr 1:03.22 to win over Olymian Simon Cowley's 1:03.60. Veteran Robert Van Der Zant, 26, won the 200 IM (2:04.22) and the 50 back (26.79). The Aussie record in the latter is 25.66 by Josh Watson from Fukuoka while in the IM the record is 2:00.91 by Justin Norris, also at Fukuoka. Van Der Zant's pr is 2:01.47 from the Olympic Trials two years ago.

* * * * *

On the women's side, Australia may have developed a fine young sprinter in 15-year-old Alice Mills, who won the 50 in 25.76 — a pr and a mere .03 off Susie O'Neill's Queensland record from the Sydney Olympics.

The Australian standard is 25.63 by Sarah Ryan from the World Championship Trials.

Mills also showed her versatility by winning the 200 IM in a pr 2:18.46 to New Zealand Olympian Helen Norfolk's 2:18.84.

Breaststroker Liesel Jones, now a 16-year-old
"graybeard," won the 50 in 32.92 to Tarnee White's 33.16; then won the 100 (1:10.15) and the 200 in
2:29.42 to 16-year-old Kelli Waite's 2:32.12.

Jones holds the Australian record in the 100 – 1:07.49 to win the silver at Sydney. Her 200 pr is 2:25.46 from the World Championships. She'll be trying to add the Aussie record of 2:24.76 by Rebecca Brown at the nationals or perhaps in Manchester if she doesn't get it in March.

One other noteworthy performance was by Chandler's 16-year-old Melanie Houghton, who won the girls' 100 fly in a pr 1:00.58. Her time broke the old Queensland record of 1:01.03 by O'Neill from 12 years ago.

— Bill Bell

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