INDIANAPOLIS, October 11. GREAT Britain’s James Hickman has never won Olympic gold, but he’s been remarkably consistent – and consistently excellent — over the short course 200 meters fly.
In fact, since 1997 the 28 year-old has been well nigh unbeatable, setting a world record that lasted from 1998 to 2001, and winning an unprecedented four Short Course World Championship crowns in a row.
With Michael Phelps scratched from the 200 fly here in Indy, Hickman’s chances for a record fifth-straight victory seemed good, but he only managed to qualify third behind Russia’s Nicolay Skvortsov and the USA’s Michael Raab.
In the final, however, Hickman made it clear he was planning on adding a fifth straight crown to his collection. On the first 50, he carved out a small quarter-second lead over Australia’s Andrew Richards.
Then he made his move, turning halfway through the race in 53.49 seconds and stretching the lead to almost a second over the stubborn Richards (54.38) followed by Skvortsov (54.80).
The third 50 iced the victory, as Hickman turned in 1:22.88, with Richards hanging on in 1:24.05, with Romania’s (and Alabama’s) Ioan Gherghel overtaking Skvortsov for third.
Hickman faltered on the final 50, splitting 30.53 seconds, only fifth fastest in the eight-man field. But he had built up a big lead and was able to hold on, touching in 1:53.41. Gherghel used his patented final 50 sprint to take second (1:54.06), while China’s Wu Peng, sixth at the 150, grabbed third in 1:54.51.
For Hickman, it was an historic fifth-straight win in the 200 fly.
“I feel like I’m on clouds right now,” said Hickman after the race. “It was absolutely the most nerve-racking race of my career. The pressure just piles on after you win the first one. It’s easy to win the first one because you’re the hunter and you’re going out to kill the prey. But when you’re the one being hunted by all these boogers behind you, it’s hard.
Hickman, who plans to retire after the European Short Course Championships in December, added: “I want to stop at the top and that’s what I’m doing right now. December is going to be the last time I race.