By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, May 19. IAN Thorpe pulled out of the 1500m heats today despite having said he would swim the event if he failed to qualify for an individual place in the 100m freestyle. Thorpe finished fourth in the 100m final on Wednesday. His coach, Doug Frost, had said he felt the 1500m would fatigue the champion swimmer and was pleased with the decision.
Atlanta silver medalist in this event, Daniel Kowalski, also decided to pull out of the heats. He has already qualified for the 800m freestyle relay team, the hot favorites for the gold medal in September. Kowalski has been nursing a shoulder injury after surgery last year, and felt the
pressure of the 1500m might affect his preparation for the freestyle relay.
With these two swimmers out of calculations, only three swimmers look likely to battle out for the two spots in the team – World and Pan Pac Champion, Grant Hackett; world record-holder and dual Olympic gold medalist for this event, Kieren Perkins, the sentimental favorite; and Doug Frost-coached teenager, Craig Stevens.
In the heats this morning, Grant Hackett was the fastest qualifier in 15:19.86, with Craig Stevens, swimming in the same heat, second in 15:35.67. Kieren Perkins had no competition in the first heat, swimming a solid first 500m and eventually recording the third fastest time, 15:35.99.