By Stephen J. Thomas
Sydney, Australia – Another sensational night of short course swimming in Sydney saw Aussie stars Ian Thorpe and Susie O’Neill lower their own world marks for the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly, respectively.
Ian Thorpe continued where he left off last year with his first world mark of the new millennium. Moving up a gear after missing the world record for the 400m free last night by less than a second, he was under his world record split from the World Championships in Hong Kong at the halfway mark by a full second. The ‘Thorpedo’ powered home with his trademark six-beat kick to finish in 1:42.54 – 0.34 under his previous time. Fellow Aussies Todd Pearson (1:46.40) and Bill Kirby (1:46.50) took the minor placings.
In the 200m fly, Susie O’Neill broke the record she set at Australian Short Course Championships in September last year by 0.27 seconds to touch in 2.04.16. The record pace pulled Chinese swimmer Yi Ruan to the third best all-time for the event in 2:06.50 behind the great Mary T Meagher and O’Neill. Japanese Maki Mita was third in a fast 2:08.14.
Americans won four gold medals on the final night of competition. Jenny Thompson set a Championship record for the 100m freestyle in 53.05 erasing Franziska Van Almsick’s ’93 mark and the 4th fastest all-time over the distance. In the last event of the meet Thompson easily won the 50m fly in 26.08, just 0.08 outside her Championship record time set in November last year at College Park. Lenny Krayzelburg had told Swimming World last night after his sizzling 100m time swim that he would go close to his world mark tonight. He was close, very close! Lenny K touched in 1:52.56; just 0.09 seconds off his mark also set at the College Park meet. Aussies Josh Watson (1:54.53) and Adrian Radley (1:55.37) took the minor medals. Kristine Quance-Julian improved on her winning time in Hobart to take out the 400IM in 4:36.47 from Canadian Joanne Malar (4:39.00) and Rachael Corner of Great Britain (4:39.26).
Aussies also won eight other events. Michael Klim led the charge with an excellent wins in the 100m fly (51.18) from fellow Aussie, Scott Miller (51.96 PB) and finished the meet with a personal best in the 50m freestyle (21.94) from the popular US swimmer Sabir Muhammad (22.10).
Grant Hackett swam the third fastest all-time 1500m freestyle in 14:29.52 beating a rapidly improving Kieren Perkins (14:43.10) and young Aussie Stephen Penfold (14:54.27). Olympic silver medalist for this distance, Aussie Daniel Kowalski, showed signs of improvement after recent shoulder surgery to finish forth (14:59.06).
Matt Welsh could not quite reproduce his world record swim from Hobart last week over 50m backstroke. However, he did enough to win in a very fast 24.29 from Lenny Krayzelburg (24.59) and Canadian Chris Renaud (24.60).
In the 200m IM, Matthew Dunn (1:57.89) beat two of his arch-rivals, world record holder Jani Sievinen of Finland (1:58.13) and Curtis Myden of Canada (1:58.58).
The surprise from the Aussie camp was the performance of 22-year-old Sarah-Jane D’Arcy in the 400m freestyle. Qualifying third fastest in a personal best 4:09.25, D’Arcy ranked 23rd in this event in ’99 led the strong field all the way to win in a new Championship record 4:03.50. She beat the ‘hot performers’ of the 800m, Sachiko Yamada of Japan (4:05.22) and Yan Zhang of China (4:06.02). D’Arcy moved to the Australian Institute of Sport twelve months ago to train under Mark Regan.
Dyana Calub (59.58) repeated her Hobart win over Shu Zhan (59.79) in the 100m backstroke and in doing so produced an Australian and Commonwealth record. In the absence of South African Penny Heyns, Sam Riley (2:24.78) showed some improved form in the 200m breaststroke to beat fellow Aussies Brook Hanson (2:25.44) and Rebecca Brown (2:25.51).
Heyns choose to skip the 200m final after qualifying second fastest. However, she won the 50m breaststroke earlier in the evening in 31.42 from Emma Igelstrom of Sweden (31.62) and Aussie Brooke Hanson (31.90). Heyns has her national trails in April before returning to Calgary to prepare for the Olympics.
China won two events. Xue Han (1:00.89) beat compatriot Shu Zhan (1:01.63) and Aussie Lori Munz (1:02.18) in the women’s 100m IM and after his defeat in Hobart, Yi Zhu turned the tables on Canada Morgan Knabe in the 100m breaststroke in a fast 59.75. Knabe was second in 59.98 from Aussie Ryan Mitchell (1:00.51).