By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, June 10. IT was never very likely given the short time frame, but FINA has officially responded to Aussie distance ace Grant Hackett's written request to have more time between the gruelling 800 and 1500 freestyle events at the World Championships in Barcelona next month.
Unfortunately for Hackett — and most of the other leading distance specialists — the program will stand as it is – the heats and finals of the two events will be held on four successive days.
FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu said it was too late to make any changes to the schedule for this year's World Championships. FINA had consulted its technical swimming committee, the Barcelona organising committee and television partners about the issue.
Marculescu was quoted as saying, "a month prior to the competition, nobody wants to accept any changes now, all the programming has been done . . . tickets have sold out for the finals already and it's very difficult to make any changes." However Marculescu did indicate that the scheduling would be reviewed for future meets.
Hackett, the duel world 1500 free champion, indicated he was disappointed with the decision, but accepted FINA's position. No doubt Hackett would have liked to push for teammate Ian Thorpe's 800 free world mark of 7:39.16. His best is 7:40.34 set in taking the silver medal at the last World Champs behind Thorpe. Thorpe has skipped this event this time around leaving the door open for Hackett, but realistically with his 1500 heat the next morning he is unlikely to shoot for the record.
Hackett remains confident he can produce fast times despite his tough schedule which includes individual swims over 200-400-800-1500 free and the 800 free relay.