By Ian Hanson
BRISBANE, Australia. July 23. Australian Swimming's "find of the year" and the Olympic swimmming team's youngest member, Leisel Jones, today continued her rapid rise up the international ladder on day two of the Telstra Grand Prix Meet at Brisbane's Chandler Aquatic Centre.
Jones, just 14, clocked a time of 2:26.59 for the 200m breaststroke, making her the thirteenth fastest woman in history and the third fastest Australian ever. It was also the seventh fastest time of the year. Unfortunately, Jones will not be swimming the event at the Olympic Games, just eight weeks away.
The only Australians to have swum faster than Jones are former world record holder Rebecca Brown (2:24.76) and Samantha Riley (2:24.81) – the fourth and fifth fastest swimmers of all time.
The quietly spoken teenager from Redcliffe, a sleepy seaside city, just 30 minutes north of Brisbane, finished third behind Caroline Hildreth and Brown at the Australian Olympic Trials in Sydney in May but today, in heavy training, took two seconds off her best time.
As her coach Ken Wood said: "She a 14-year-old and as many coaches know, 14-year-olds are unpredictable – the one thing I can predict is a very, very bright future."
Jones will be joined at her first Olympics by Redcliffe training partner, Tarnee White, in the 100 metres – and the determined Year 9 student at the Southern Cross College in Scarborough is content with her lone shot at her first Olympics.
"To be quite truthful I am really happy swimming only the 100 metres in Sydney," said Jones, "I didn't swim as well as I could at the Trials and Caroline and Rebecca deserved their places on the team. I'm sure I will get a few more chances in the future in the 200m.
"This year has just been a dream for me, especially after all the problems I had with my shoulder last year. My mum said 2000 would be my year and so far she's been right."
Meanwhile Susie O'Neill continued her outstanding form, adding the 100 metres freestyle and the 200 metres butterfly to her wins in the 100m butterfly and 200 metres freestyle on day one.
Today she started the program with another close victory over promising teenager, Manly's Elka Graham and 1996 Olympic finalist Sarah Ryan in the 100 metres freestyle and then backed up to add the 200 metres butterfly, leaving Petria Thomas and Nicole Hunter, in her wake.
O'Neill clocked 56.98 in the 100 metres with Graham, narowly beaten in the 200m by O'Neill yesterday, fractionally behind in 57.04, with Ryan third in 57.10.
In the 200m butterfly, O'Neill clocked a world class time of 2:09.92 – bettered by only five swimmers – including herself and Thomas – so far this year.
"I really needed this competition to find out where I was at with eight weeks to go to the Games and to be quite truthful I am pleasantly surprised," O'Neill said.
In other highlights today: Ian Thorpe added the 200 metres freestyle in 1:49.08, in front of Grant Hackett (1:50.22) and William Kirby (1:51.81) to his 400 metres freestyle win from day one.
Atlanta Olympian Ryan Mitchell admitted he "loved swimming at the Chandler complex" and collected the breaststroke double, winning the 100m today in 1:03.37.
Western Australia's Jennifer Reilly came with a blistering finish to win the 400 IM over a brave Yvette Rodier in a time of 4:49.98 to Rodier's 4:50.10 with Hayley Lewis third in 4:54.40.
Michael Klim cleared away to take the 100m butterfly in 54.05, ahead of Australian team mates Geoff Huegill (55.19) and Adam Pine (55.33); Dyana Calub scored a comfortable win in the 100m backstroke over New Zealand's Monique Robins (1:04.92) and Clementine Stoney (1:05.75).
Ray Hass, who missed the Olympic team won the mens 200m backstroke in 2:01.77 ahead of Matt Welsh (2:03.97) and Millennium Youth team member (2:05.77); Matt Dunn, showed good form to record an impressive 200 IM victory in 2:04.48.
Sarah-Jane D'Arcy won the 400m freestyle in 4:13.97 over Elka Graham (4:14.56) and Hayley Lewis (4:17.57); Brett Hawke confirmed his status as Australia's fastest man, winning the 50m freestyle in 23.37, over Sydney University clubmate Chris Fydler (23.40 and 100m winner Ashley Callus (23.44); while Grant Hackett had a "stroll in the park" to win the 1500m in 15.40.33, while Olympic champion Kieren Perkins sat in the grandstand, nursing his injured ribs.