The World Championships: Looking Ahead

By John Lohn

PHILADELPHIA, Penn., April 29. NOW that the majority of the World Championship Trials have concluded, much of the swimming community’s attention has shifted to Montreal and the events of July. Sure, the World Champs are nearly three months away, but it’s never too early to take a look at some of the storylines that will highlight the action in Canada.

So, each Friday leading up to July, we’ll take a look at a headline-grabbing story that will dot the competition. We’ll call it Friday Food for Thought and we’ll kick it off right now. Hope you enjoy.

Hackett vs. Phelps

So, Ian Thorpe has opted to bypass these World Championships. And, while the absence of the Aussie great certainly dilutes the talent present in Montreal, the 400 freestyle should be a glamour event, thanks to the impending clash between Grant Hackett and Michael Phelps.

There’s no doubt that Hackett is the world’s greatest distance swimmer, evidenced in his three consecutive world championships and back-to-back Olympic crowns in the 1,500 freestyle. Now, the Aussie is looking for international gold in the 400 free, something he almost achieved last summer, when he narrowly settled for silver behind Thorpe in Athens.

Standing in Hackett’s way, of course, is Phelps. The premier swimmer in the world, to his credit, continually searches for ways to test his talents, and embracing the 400 freestyle for the World Champs falls into that category. Yes, Phelps has some time-slicing ahead of him, but his track record and bulldog mentality indicate that Phelps will give Hackett everything he can handle.

NEXT WEEK: Can South Africa Remain on Top in the 400 Free Relay?

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