By Ian Hanson
BRISBANE, July 22. Australian Swimming's wonderkid Ian Thorpe made an impressive Telstra Grand Prix debut at Chandler Aquatic Centre in Brisbane today today after hatching a pre-race plan with fellow Olympian Grant Hackett before the race.
Thorpe, the world record holder and world champion, missed the first Grand Prix in Canberra, after electing to attend a high altitude training camp in Colarado Springs, deep in enemy territory.
But their was a firm message to the US team and the rest of the world before today's race – we're only foxing.
Thorpe and Hackett, the best of mates, agreed to cruise through the first 300 metres of today's 400 metres final, before unleashing their power over the final 100m. The pair, who will contest this event on the opening day of the Olympics on September 15, laughed about their "agreement" after the race.
"I suggested it to Grant," admitted Thorpe after clocking 3:51.20 to win the race, with Hackett (3:52.22) second and Millennium Youth Team member, Josh Krogh (4:01.66) third, "so I suppose I had to stick to the pre-race plan."
"It was all pretty easy actually and a bit of fun but it was good to get in and race after a solid training camp in ther US. Grant and I are good mates and we are both looking forward to racing the 400m together in the Olympics."
But Thorpe also admitted it would be a totally different story, when it came to discussing the pre-race tactics before the Sydney Games.
"That's going to be top secret," said Thorpe, "it will be a different story when we get to Sydney for the big one."
Thorpe has earlier finished fourth in the 100 metres freestyle final, won, surprisingly by Brisbane's Ashley Callus, a member of the Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay squad. Callus even surprised himself, clocking 50.94 to upset Australia's two individual Olympic entrants Chris Fydler (51.21) and Michael Klim (51.22).
"I actually would have been pleased with a sub 52 swim, but to clock under 51, was a real surprise, I'm very happy with that," said Callus, who, like Klim, has just returned from a successful training camp in Hawaii.
Defending Olympic champion Susie O'Neill was also in fine form, winning two close finishes, the first in the 200 metres against outstanding youngsters Elka Graham, Kirsten Thomson, Katie Canning, Kasey Giteau, Sarah Jane-D'Arcy, Kate Krywulycz and Linda McKenzie.
O'Neill at 26, proved fractionally too strong for Graham, clocking 2:00.82 to Graham's 2:00.89, with Thompson third in 2:03.26, followed by Canning (2:03.32) and Giteau (2:04.04), D'Arcy and Krywulycz (2:04.17) and McKenzie (2:05.34) – the average age of the rest of the field, just 17 years of age.
It was the 35-time National champion and current world number one who found enough in the closing stages to keep her younger rivals at bay. Graham, Thompson, Giteau and D'Arcy will all join the triple Olympian in their first Olympics.
Canning, 15, Krywulycz, 15 and McKenzie 16, will all represent the Australian Youth Team in the Millennium Youth Games in Edinburgh next month and judging by their performances this year, Australian Swimming has another batch of future champions.
O'Neill, after dealing with the "whipper-snappers" then let arch-rival Petria Thomas know she was still hot to trot as well when she came at the Olympic silver medallist in the closing stages of the 100m butterfly, just 10 minutes later, winning in 1:00.47, from Thomas (1:00.87) and another Millennium Youth team member, Nicole Nunter (1:03.23) third.