By Stephen J. Thomas
MELBOURNE, Australia, August 11. JESSICAH SCHIPPER certainly has youth on her side but tonight saw the end of an amazing couple of weeks for the Queensland 18-year-old fly specialist when she produced yet another world-class swim, powering to the third-fastest 100 butterfly in history.
Clocking 56.56 at the Australian Short Course Championships, Schipper equaled the time posted by the great Jenny Thompson back in March 2000. Schipper easily broke the Commonwealth record held by Petria Thomas by .37 and was within grasp of Natalie Coughlin’s world record, which currently sits at 56.34.
Both Schipper and Libby Lenton – the Montreal gold and silver medalists – were under Coughlin's world record split at the 50-mark with Lenton leading the way in 26.53 to 26.81. However, Schipper regained her ascendancy in the final lap with Lenton holding on to finish in a PR 56.96 – only the sixth woman to go under the 57-second mark.
At the other end of the spectrum, ‘captain courageous’ Grant Hackett decided he had done enough this tour of duty and declined to swim his signature 1500 freestyle in which he holds the world record at the amazing time of 14:10.10. The next best time recorded over the short-course format is held by Keiren Perkins, more than 16 seconds adrift. In his absence tonight, the 30-lap race was won by his training partner, former Canadian Kurtis MacGillivary, in 14:56.12. Hackett may still have the opportunity to swim the event in Shanghai having already easily qualified for the 200 and 400 free.
Other winners on the men’s side tonight included a spectacular tie in the 100 freestyle between Ashley Callus, the former world champ in this event, and 19-year-old Olympian Eamon Sullivan, as both touched in 47.91. It was Sullivan’s first open national title and he moved to fifth all-time Aussie performer with the effort, which should give him some added confidence after just missing selection on the recent World Champs team. For Callus, 26, the Aussie record-holder at 46.99, it was a great return to form after a couple of years affected by intermitted illness.
Veteran dorsal specialist Matt Welsh produced an excellent swim in the 200 backstroke clocking 1:51.88 – only .26 outside his Aussie record. In second place, Ethan Rolff clocked a PR 1:52.83 to also easily go under the qualifying time. The win tonight by the 28-year-old Welsh gives him a record seven consecutive clean sweeps in the backstroke events at SC Nationals and his twenty-fourth short course title – the most by any Aussie swimmer.
Leith Brodie defended his 100 I.M. title winning in 54.72 from breaststroke specialist Brenton Rickard 55.30. Rickard backed up to easily take out the 50 breaststroke shortly after in 27.19 from Christian Sprenger's PR of 27.61.
The combacking Justin Norris won the 200 butterfly in an eye-catching 1:54.85 but will decline the opportunity to swim at the World Champs in Shanghai, preferring to focus on Commonwealth Games selection in January. Norris won Olympic bronze in 2000 in this event as a teen. Titleholder Andrew Richards was next to the wall in 1:55.11 and was also under the qualifying time.
On the women’s side:
World-record-holder Leisel Jones produced yet another word class swim in the 200 breaststroke, clocking 2:20.07 with an all-the-way win to end her busy campaign. Other than Jones, only China’s Qi Hui and Sweden’s Emma Egelstrom have swum faster. Jones holds the world mark at 2:17.75 set in this pool last November. Her main rival Brooke Hanson was never too far off the pace finishing less than one-second outside her best to take the silver in 2:22.55. Jones has declined to swim in Shanghai despite qualifying in both the 100 and 200 events.
Sixteen year-old rising star Bronte Barratt swam a huge PR 1:56.87 to win the 200 freestyle and add to the victory in the 400 earlier in the week. She led from the start to comfortably beat World Champs team members Shayne Reese (1:57.42) and Lara Davenport (1:57.90) to the wall.
Golden girl Libby Lenton added the 50 freestyle title to her collection this week touching in 24.44 to edge out fellow Olympic finalist in this event Michelle Engelsman who clocked a PR 24.59. The win was a huge credit to Lenton producing this win just two events after her excellent performance in the 100 fly.
Tay Zimmer added the 50 backstroke title to her credits in 27.58 taking the dorsal treble for the meet.