By David Mason and Belinda Dennett
BRISBANE, QLD., Australia. March 21. HISTORY was once again rewritten tonight at the 2002 Telstra Australian Swimming Championships when Ian Thorpe became the first man to win back-to-back 100m, 200m and 400m trebles.
Last year he joined John Konrads as the only man to achieve the feat and this year he surged into unchartered waters by once again winning the 100m, 200m and 400m titles.
Thorpe etched his name into the annals by winning the 100m freestyle with a power-packed finish to swamp silver medallist Ashley Callus.
Thorpe clocked 48.98, the second time he has been under 49 seconds, to defeat Callus (49.43), Todd Pearson (49.64) with an elated distance king Grant Hackett, clocking 50.31 for fourth.
(Thorpe's time was 9-hundredths of a second slower than Jason Lezak's winning time at the US Nationals last night.)
Hackett's time for the 100m was his third personal best in three days in the 100m event and his joy when he touched the wall outshone even Thorpe's reaction.
All four will contest the 4x100m freestyle relay in Manchester. Hackett's achievement in making the relay team added amazing range to his program, which will go from the 1500m to the 4x100m relay, including the 200m and 400m freestyle events.
But it was Thorpe's night and he sent out an ominous warning to his 100m freestyle counterparts, not just in Australia, but around the world.
"I've got to the stage in the 100m freestyle where I know how to race it. I know how hard I have to go out and how hard I have to come home," he said explaining his like for the race. The 100m (freestyle) is pretty simple for me. I go out as hard as I can, turn for home and try to maintain it as long as I can."
MEANWHILE Petria Thomas earned the right to be the first women to ever win three consecutive Commonwealth Games swimming titles by winning the 100m butterfly final.
Thomas, who won the 100m butterfly in Victoria (1994) and Kuala Lumpur (1998) will now swim the event in Manchester and attempt her place in history.
The triple World Champion from the 2001 World Championships clocked 58.94 to beat home Victoria's Rachel Coffee (1:00.93) and NSW teenager Felicity Galvez (1:01.03), which moved her into 10th place on the all-time Australian list.
"It (winning three straight Commonwealth 100m butterfly titles) is definitely a goal that has been driving me," Thomas said.
JUSTIN NORRIS continued his remarkably versatile championships, adding gold in the 400m individual medley to the gold he won in the 200m butterfly and his silver-winning performance in the 200m breaststroke.
Norris (4:20.24) stormed over the top of AIS teammate Trent Steed over the last 50m to win from Grant McGregor (4:21.45) and Steed (4:22.44), who finished 3rd.
Amanda Pascoe (8:38.34) made it two Australian 800m Championships in succession with victory from Jennifer Reilly (8:42.58) and Tammie Smith (8:45.05).
It was Pascoe's third Australian Championships after taking the 800m/1500m freestyle double at last year's Nationals in Hobart and she was a little disappointed with her time – even though it was her personal best time.
"I expected to go a lot faster," she said. "I think I went out a bit too hard but I'm just happy with the win to get me on the team for the Commonwealth Games."
In semifinal action tonight, Ian Thorpe and Petria Thomas qualified for backstroke finals in a strong indication of the virtually untapped versatility of this Australian Swim Team.
Thorpe (56.63) is the 4th fastest qualifier behind raging favourite Matt Welsh, who clocked 55.37 with Leigh McBean (56.49) and Ethan Rolff (56.58) also in with a shot at a medal.
Thomas is the 3rd fastest qualifier for the 50m backstroke after registering 29.57 (making her the 5th fastest time Australian) with Giaan Rooney the quickest in 29.21 and Dyana Calub clocking 29.37 to be the second fastest into tomorrow night's final.
Western Australian 15-year-old Nicole Seah finished 4th but her time of 29.73 ranks her as the 7th fastest Australian of all time over the 50m backstroke.
SARAH RYAN continued her dominant form by clocking the fastest time in the semi finals of the 50m freestyle. She stopped the clock at 25.73 to shade Jodie Henry (25.90), Nichola Chellingworth (26.03) and 15-year-old freestyle find Alice Mills (26.08).
Jim Piper will go into tomorrow night's 50m breaststroke final as the fastest qualifier after clocking 28.79, ahead of Brenton Rickard (28.85) and Phil Rogers (28.94). Rickard's time moved him to 5th on the all-time Australian rankings.
"Lethal" Leisel Jones is just one step away from being the first woman since Samantha Riley in 1992 to take a clean sweep of the breaststroke events by easily qualifying fastest for the final of the 100m breaststroke in 1:07.99 her first time in a Speedo Fastskin swimsuit.
"It's the first time I've used this suit and it feels great," said Jones.
Her time was 0.50 second outside her own Australian record, which will be under siege in tomorrow night's final.
She will be pushed hard by Victoria's Sarah Kasoulis (1:10.01), Tarnee White (1:10.05) and Brooke Hanson (1:10.16) with Kasoulis moving to 10th on the all-time Australian list.
BRISBANE'S favourite son, Geoff Huegill will take up lane 4 in the final of the 100m butterfly after he set a time of 53.15 in the semi finals tonight. His main competition will come from Adam Pine, who registered 53.26, with Shane Fielding (54.61) an outside chance.
In Multi Disability (M/D) events tonight, Dianna Ley won selection in the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games by taking out the 100m freestyle for Elite Athletes with a Disability (EAD).
She clocked 1:08.16 with Katrina Lewis finishing second and Kate Bailey, claiming third place.
In the M/D women's 100m backstroke final Siobhan Paton won her 5th medal at these championships by taking the gold in 1:11.56 with Hannah MacDougall claiming silver and Chantel Wolfenden taking bronze.
In the M/D men's 100m backstroke David Rolfe took gold in a time of 1:12.55, from Andrew Pasterfield and Troy Puttergill.