By Stephen J. Thomas
and Phillip Whittem
AUSTRALIAN superstar Michael Klim has dropped the 200 meter freestyle from the list of events he will swim at the Olympics in September to concentrate on winning gold in the 100 free and 100 fly, plus the three relays. Klim won gold at the 1998 World Championships in the 200 free, but finished second to world record-holder Ian Thorpe at last month's Australian Olympic Trials. He was also out-touched by Geoff Huegill by one one-hundredth of a second in the 100m butterfly.
The 200 free is the second event Klim has dropped as he prepares for the 2000 Olympic Games. The Australian record-holder in the 50 free and bronze medalist in the event at the 1998 World Championships, Klim did not swim the event at the Australian Trials. Originally Klim announced he would try to duplicate Mark Spitz's 1972 feat of winning seven gold medals in seven events.
Klim's withdrawal is the classic good news-bad news situation for the rest of the world's top 200 meter freestylers. The good news is that Klim is out of the event. The bad news is that his place has been taken by former world record-holder, Grant Hackett. Hackett, who finished third at the Australian Trials, has a faster lifetime best (1:46.67, third fastest swimmer all-time) than Klim.
Josh Davis, the top American, commented: "I don't know who I'd rather swim against, Klim or Hackett. Either way, they (the Aussies) are going to fill two lanes with two very fast guys."
Grant Hackett, who was already swimming the 400 and 1500 meter freestyle, plus the 4 x 200 meter free relay, said he had mixed feelings about replacing Klim. "I want to swim the event, and I will give it my best, but my focus is still on the 1500. If I do well (in the 1500) I should be able to take about six seconds off my best time."
Don Talbot, Australia's head coach, commented: "That's a big order for him. I've pointed out to Grant and his coach that nobody in the history of the sport has ever won the gold medal in those three events."
Klim had originally told Talbot he wanted to withdraw from the 200 free on May 23, but Talbot insisted that Klim put his request in writing before taking action on it.