By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, January 14. IAN Thorpe, the 200-400 freestyle world champion, made a low-key start to racing in 2004 with an unspectacular but comfortable win in the 19 & over 200 freestyle final in a relatively slow 1:50.23 from Josh Krogh (1:51.74) and Patrick Murphy (1:52.35).
The 21-year-old superstar of Australian swimming was wearing an impressive suntan rather than his trademark black suit when he mounted the blocks and he made it clear this was little more than a training swim. Thorpe’s coach Tracey Menzies said her charge had not deviated from his demanding training schedule to compete in this race.
Local boy Jim Piper had his second win in two days over Aussie record-holder Brenton Rickard, coming home over the top of his Victorian rival 1:02.27 to 1:02.40. Japan’s Takao Matsueda took third (1:03.50) from 15-year-old Sydneysider James Stacey who clocked a PR 1:04.44.
World champs 200 fly finalist Felicity Galvez won the open 100 fly final in 1:00.65, not far short of her PR 1:00.38 set last March. Victorian Rachel Coffee took silver in 1:01.80 from sixteen-year-old Japanese Rina Hayashi 1:02.30 and Lara Davenport (1:02.31).
Japanese 15-year-old Rina Ueda won the open 50 backstroke final in a fast 29.85 from local girl Yvette Pilgrim (30.31) and 14-year-old Stephanie Williams.
Freestyler Kasey Giteau had some success at the dorsal stroke with a win in the women’s 19 & over 100 backstroke final, clocking 1:04.83. Giteau joins a growing number of swimmers to test the water in the dorsal events -where Aussie stocks are relatively weak by world standards. Last week Queenslander Marieke Guehrer, better know as a fly/free sprinter made a significant step forward on her back in winning the Queensland title posting an impressive 1:02.72 (8th best Aussie all-time performer). Karina Leane took the 17-18 girls event in 1:04.16, from Yvette Pilgrim (1:04.46). Newcastle rising star Stephanie Williams won the 14 years event in an excellent 1:03.91.
In the men’s 100 backstroke, Olympic finalist Josh Watson won the men’s 19 & over event in a very solid 55.93 from Andrew Burns 57.09 and Ethan Rolff 58.27. Victorian rising star Andrew Lauterstein clocked 57.57 to with the boys’ 16 years event. Lauterstein upset Aussie record-holder Matt Welsh in a stunning win at the Victorian titles last week.
Victorian Sarah Kasoulis took the women’s 19 & over 100 breaststroke in 1:09.24. A better finish may have see her go under her PR 1:08.91.
The best times from all age group events go through to the open final the following evening.