LOS ANGELES, December 4. AUSTRALIAN Ian Thorpe and American Natalie Coughlin will be named tomorrow the male and female “World Swimmers of the Year” for 2002 by Swimming World and Junior Swimmer magazine, the magazine of record in the sport of swimming. The December issue of the magazine, featuring Thorpe on the cover, will be on newsstands tomorrow.
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For Thorpe, 20, this marks the second time in a row and the fourth time in the last five years that he has earned the prestigious award. For Coughlin, also 20, it is her first such honor.
Thorpe becomes the first swimmer ever to win this award four times. Three swimmers — the USA's Janet Evans, Hungary's Kristina Egerszegi and East Germany's Kristin Otto — were three-time winners.
The two were selected by a panel of 12 of the world's most knowledgeable and distinguished swimming writers from North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, South America and Africa.
In 2001, Thorpe won in a runaway, but this year he barely withstood a challenge by 17 year-old American, Michael Phelps, who actually had more impressive world rankings. The “Thorpedo” set “only” one world record in 2002, lowering his own global standard in the 400m freestyle to 3:40.08, and ranked first in the world in two events: the 200 and 400 meters. But in the year’s two biggest meets – the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England and the Pan Pacific Championships in Yokohama, Japan – he won an astonishing 11 gold medals (six individual, five relay). Phelps set a world record in the 400 meters individual medley (4:11.09) and ranked first in the 200 and 400m medleys and the 100m butterfly, and second in the 200m butterfly, another event in which he holds the world record. He also swam on the USA’s world record-setting 4x100m medley relay. At the Pan Pacs, he won two individual gold and one silver medal, plus one of each color in the relay events.
Coughlin was a nearly unanimous choice over Germany’s Franziska van Almsick. The University of California student became the first woman to break the one-minute barrier for the 100 meters backstroke (59.58), ranked first in the world in three different strokes – the 100 meter freestyle, 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly – and won four individual gold medals plus a relay gold and two silver medals at the Pan Pacs. Last month she set short course world records in the 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly and 100m individual medley. Van Almsick broke her own eight year-old world record in the 200m freestyle and swam on Germany’s record-setting 4x100m freestyle relay, as she won five gold medals (two individual, three relay) at the European Championships.
The Top Three Vote-Getters
1. Ian Thorpe, Australia
2. Michael Phelps, USA
3. Grant Hackett, Australia
1. Natalie Coughlin, USA
2. Franziska van Almsick, Germany
3. Yana Klochkova, Ukraine
In regional voting, the honorees for 2002 are as follows:
1. Petria Thomas, Australia
2. Qi Hui, China
3. Luo Xuejuan, China
1. Franziska van Almsick, Germany
2. Yana Klochkova, Ukraine
3. Otylia Jedrejczak, Poland
1. Natalie Coughlin
2. Lindsay Benko
3. Diana Munz
1. Ian Thorpe, Australia
2. Kosuke Kitajima, Japan
3. Grant Hackett, Australia
1. Pieter van den Hoogenband, Netherlands
2. Thomas Rupprath, Germany
3. Oleg Lisogor, Ukraine
1. Michael Phelps
2. Aaron Peirsol
3. Ed Moses
Pacific Rim Swimmers of the Year – As male World Swimmer of the Year, Ian Thorpe is also the male Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year. Repeating her first-time selection as female Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year is Australia's Petria Thomas. This year, Petria, who turned 27 on Aug. 25, set a Commonwealth record in the 50 meter butterfly (long course) with her 26.66 at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, July 31. She came very close, a mere 6-hundredths of a second, from setting a second Commonwealth mark in the 100 fly with her 58.11 effort at the Pan Pacific Championships in Yokohama, Aug. 26. Her best time in the 200 fly this year was a 2:08.31, also at Pan Pacs. In short course meters competition, Petria set two Commonwealth standards this year. In the 50 fly, she turned in a 26.36 swim at the Short Course World Championships, April 5, in Moscow; more recently, she posted a 56.93 at the Telstra Australian Short Course Championships in Melbourne, Sept. 5.
European Swimmers of the Year – Two veterans turned in impressive performances at the European Championships and, as a result, were named European Swimmers of the Year, Pieter van den Hoogenband of The Netherlands and Franziska van Almsick from Germany, both 24. On the second night of competition at the European Championships in Berlin, van den Hoogenband turned in the second fastest ever 100 meter freestyle relay split. He blasted an amazing 47.12 (he owns the #1 split at 47.02) to give his Netherlands team fourth place in the 400 meter freestyle relay. In the individual 100m free, he ended up a mere 2-hundredths shy of the world mark that he set at the Sydney Olympics, with a 47.86. Along with his 47.97 semifinal swim, "Hoogie" owns the top three, and only sub-48 second, performances in the event. Pieter also posted a European record 1:44.89 in the 200 free to rank No. 2 in the world this year. That also made him the second fastest performer all-time with the fifth fastest performance. To cap off his European Championship experience, he placed fourth in the 50 free (22.34).
Franziska van Almsick came into the European Championships this year after seven years of swimming in virtual obscurity. The last time she led the world in any event was in 1995. The last time she was named Swimming World's European Swimmer of the Year was in 1994. And the last time she was named World Swimmer of the Year was in 1993. She hadn't even turned in a personal best time since 1995! However, by the end of the Europeans, all of that was forgotten. Five gold medals and two world records have a way of doing that. The cornerstone of Franzi's triumphs was her world record swim in the 200 meter free (1:56.64). She bettered her previous mark of 1:56.78 set at the World Championships in Rome in 1994. However, that wasn't the only world record she set at the meet: she anchored Germany's 400 free relay (53.64) of 3:36.00, which bettered the global standard of 3:36.61 set by the USA at the Sydney Olympics. She also helped her team to a European record in the 400 medley relay with her butterfly split of 57.48, and she tied the German national record in the 100 free with her winning 54.39, tying her for seventh performer all-time. Her fifth gold came in the 800 free relay, where she posted a 1:57.90 anchor split.
American Swimmers of the Year – As female World Swimmer of the Year, Natalie Coughlin was also the unanimous choice as female American Swimmer of the Year.
Phelps, who earned top American honors for men, had a career-making year in 2002. He set a world record of 4:11.09 in the 400 meter IM (long course) at the U.S. Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, erasing Tom Dolan's 4:11.76 from the Sydney Olympics, and followed that up with a 4:12.48 at Pan Pacs, the sixth fastest performance ever. He came close to setting standards in three other long course events this year, all at the long course Nationals in Fort Lauderdale in August. In the 100 butterfly, Michael turned in a 51.88, which tied him with Germany's Thomas Rupprath for second performance all-time and top time this year. He was just 7-hundredths shy of the world mark, currently held by Michael Klim. Phelps also came within 28-hundredths of his own world mark set last year in the 200 fly at the World Championships with a 1:54.86 (third performance all-time). And in the 200 IM, Phelps' 1:58.68 made him the second performer ever (third performance), coming within 52-hundredths of Jani Sievinen's 1:58.16 from the 1994 World Championships. At Pan Pacs, Phelps won the 200 and 400 IMs. He ranked No. 1 in the world this year in those two events and tied for another No. 1 world ranking in the 100 fly.