By Ian Hanson
HOBART, Tasmania. March 25. OLYMPIC champion Ian Thorpe clocked the second fastest time in history when he won his fourth consecutive Australian 400m freestyle championship in Hobart on Monday night and he is now primed for a classic 800m showdown with arch rival Grant Hackett in what will be one of the major highlights of the 2001 Telstra Australian Swimming Championships on Monday night.
Thorpe and Hackett were back in the pool today (Sunday) in the 800m freestyle heats – the event now a major priority on this year's World Championship program.
Hackett clocked 8:08.27 to win his heat and Thorpe actually clocked a personal best time of 8:09.95 – the first time he has swum the event – to set up a classic confrontation with Hackett.
Kieren Perkins' world record of 7:46.00 – set on the way through to his 1500m world record at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, is very much under siege.
"It's definitely a time that will have to go unless we both have a pretty dreadful sort of swim," said Hackett, the reigning world and Olympic champion over 1500m.
If Thorpe's 400m time last night is any indication then another world record to the Thorpedo could well be on the cards.
Thorpe clocked a time of 3:40.76 to finish just 0.17 outside his own world record, which he set at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
The 18-year-old is the first swimmer to win four consecutive 400m freestyle championships since John Konrads dominated the event between 1958-1961.
Thorpe now owns the three fastest times in history over 400m and defeated a gallant Grant Hackett (3:45.46) by almost five seconds.
Thorpe's split times were: 53.88, 1:50.12, 2:45.56.
"I was happy, very happy with it. I wasn't sure how fast I would swim but I was very happy with my preparation. I was pleased swimming close to me best time," Thorpe said.
"I know that I have trained well, but until you step up onto the blocks and race you are never 100 percent sure. I place quite a deal of importance on this meet and in that race I was glad to see I'm back swimming where I was.
"I wasn't planning on swimming it differently to the Olympics. I went out with the intention of going out quite moderately and putting it up another gear in the last 100m."