By Stephen J Thomas
CANBERRA, Aust., February 28. IT was a night of comebacks at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) pool in Canberra with Michael Klim certainly the focus of attention. The 26-year-old Klim did a good job to finish third behind some quality opposition in both the 100 fly and 50 free in his first real taste of racing for over two years.
The Olympic silver medalist said after the fly that he had felt good for the first 80-meters and hopefully he will be able to make up ground in the final twenty in the next four weeks before the trials. “I felt pretty good considering it was my first 100 fly in two years. I was aiming at around 53.5 seconds (he clocked 53.88), so I was a little off the pace. My goal is to drop about a second in my taper. It was not easy getting back into the routine of racing after many months of hard work so I’m happy overall with where I am right now,” Klim said.
However, the night was also notable for top-class comeback performances from 28-year-old Petria Thomas winning the 100 fly in 58.32 after clocking a very swift 58.09 in the morning heats (just 0.04 of a second outside her Commonwealth record set in May 2000).
Another long-term member of the AIS squad, dual Olympian Sarah Ryan, 27, who had retired last year to concentrate on a full-time career, was right back on track with a sizzling 25.63 just one one-hundredth of a second outside her best set in March 2001. And popular Canadian Joanna Malar swam a confidence boosting 4:46.64 to easily win the 400 IM. The 28-year-old Malar set the Commonwealth record in this event of 4:38.46 during a purple patch at the ’99 Pan Pacs in Sydney.
The Canadian visitors had four other wins on the night. Olympian Rick Say clocked a very solid 1:49.31 in the 200 free to beat Aussies Todd Pearson 1:49.97 and Anthony Matkovich 1:51.46. His Olympic teammate Mike Mintenko cleared away in the last ten meters to easily take the 100 fly in 52.96 from Adam Pine (53.80) and Michael Klim (53.88). The world record-holder over 400 IM short course, Brian Johns edged out promising Aussie Adam Lucas by 0.08 of a second in the longer version clocking 4:23.73 and Erin Gammel just got home in the dorsal one-lap sprint in 29.48 from Giaan Rooney (29.53).
There were also outstanding performances from 28-year-old Aussie sprint king Brett Hawke in the 50 dash with a winning time of 22.39, his best for over two years – Hawk’s Aussie record stands at 22.18 from ’01 Worlds. He easily defeated Todd Pearson (23.05) and the returning Michael Klim (23.08). Brooke Hanson swam an impressive 1:08.31 just off her PR of 1:08.15 set in Melbourne last month. AIS based Mark Riley took the men’s event in 1:03.35 from Canadian Morgan Knabe (1:03.43) and AIS team-mate Regan Harrison (1:03.59).
Elka Graham looks to be on track for the Olympic trials with a convincing 2:00.06 win in the 200 free from Canadian 16-year-old Brittany Reimer (2:01.83) and Shayne Reese (2:02.14).
Reimer had taken out the 800 freestyle on the first night clocking 8:37.11 to break a ten-year-old meet record and edge out AIS swimmer Linda MacKenzie who clocked a three second PR 8:37.35.
Matt Welsh took a dorsal double – first the 50 back in 25.97 from Canadian Riley Janes (26.32), breaking a meet record held by Russian Alex Popov no less and then a workman-like 2:01.62 in the four-lap race beating Andrew Burns (2:02.67).
South Australian Melissa Morgan had an easy win in the women’s 200 back, clocking 2:14.10 to beat AIS based Frances Adcock (2:15.83) and British world champion Katie Sexton (2:15.84) who had been on a training camp in Queensland with a Great Britain squad.