By Stephen J. Thomas
HOBART, Australia, Aug.2. MANY of the big names from the Aussie team from Barcelona had skipped this meet so one might have expected a low-key meet. Thorpe, Hackett, Huegill, Graham and Hawke had all passed here in the small island state of Tasmania south-west of the mainland but several of those that braved the thirty hour trip and mid-winter temperatures in the low 30’s were here to make a big splash.
Queensland's 18-year-old Libby Lenton had made her presence felt in Barcelona in what was her first international meet where she took two bronze medals – 50 free and 400 free relay. Tonight in a semi-final of the 100 freestyle Lenton clocked a sensational 52.97 to smash the Commonwealth (53.26 England’s Sue Rolph) and Australian records (53.34 Sarah Ryan). The swim was equal 7th fastest all-time and moves her to 4th all-time performer.
This time last year Lenton was not ranked in the Aussie top ten in this event having skipped this meet to concentrate on her final high school exams. She made her first big impression at the World Cup meet in Melbourne last December, beating the likes of world record-holder Therese Alshammar and American Lindsay Benko to medal in this event in a PR 54.57. She upped her train regime around that time and then made individual swims in the 50-100 fly and 50-100 free in Barcelona. The additional strength that has come from her long course season was evident last night particularly in her start where she was fast off the blocks, working well under water in start and turns.
The world championship silver medalist in the 50m breaststroke, Brooke Hanson continued where she left off in Barcelona lowering her own Aussie record for the short course race clocking 30.44 in a semi-final. Her time was 7th fastest all-time swim over the distance. She went on to win the final in 30.60 from Jade Edmistone and Leisel Jones. Hanson had also lowered the national record twice in Barcelona in this event.
Fellow Victorian breaststroker Brenton Rickard also set a new Aussie record in the 50 breast in his semi-final. Rickard swam 27.36 slicing 0.16 seconds off the record held by Phil Rodgers.
Other winners on night one were West Aussie pair Adam Lucas in the men's 400m IM (4:11.99) and Lara Carroll 4:40.77 in the women's 400 IM; 200m fly world champs finalist Felicity Galvez (NSW) 2:08.50; Stephen Penfold (Qld) 1:46.67 in the 200m freestyle and Matt Welsh (Vic) in the 50m backstroke in 23.73.