SYDNEY, Oct. 30. UNITED STATES Olympic stars Lindsay Benko, Chad Carvin and Jason Lezak, British duo Zoe Baker and Paul Palmer, and Canadian Olympic breaststroker Morgan Knabe will be among the star attractions for the 2001 Qantas Skins at the Sydney Aquatic Centre on December 5.
The innovative Skins meet is one of the most popular nights on the Australian Swimming calendar and, for the first time, the one-night spectacular will be swum midweek on Wednesday December 5.
Benko is an Olympic gold medalist in the USA 4x200m freestyle relay at the Sydney Olympics, who injured her knee on the eve of this year's World Championships in Fukuoka. She bounced back to win the 200 meters freestyle at the Goodwill Games – defeating world ranked number one Australian Elka Graham.
The pair will lock horns again at the Skins in the middle-distance freestyle event along with rising stars Linda McKenzie and Amanda Pascoe.
The middle distance event for men will see Carvin – an Olympic silver medalist in the USA 4x200m freestyle relay in Sydney last year clash with Australia's world record breaking 1500m freestyle king Grant Hackett, world record breaking 4x200m freestyle relay swimmer William Kirby and British middle distance champion Paul Palmer – a silver medalist over 400m freestyle at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Lezak, the US relay star, will meet his old foe, Olympic gold medalist Ashley Callus in the 4x50m freestyle event, which saw the likeable Aussie hang-on to snatch the AUS$5,000 (US$2,500) first prize check last year.
In the breaststroke event for women, British world championship bronze medalist Zoe Baker, who was just outside the short course world record for 50m breaststroke at last week's Novo Nordisk Sprint Cup in New York will take on Australia's three premier breaststrokers: Leisel Jones, defending Qantas Skins champion Brooke Hanson and Tarnee White in what will be another classic showdown.
In the men’s event, defending champion Morgan Knabe will meet Australia’s "big four" Olympians Phil Rogers and Regan Harrison, last year’s Skins finalist Jim Piper and Pan Pac gold medalist Simon Cowley.
Here is an insight into the Qantas Skins:
BIRTH OF THE SKINS: The Qantas Skins is a unique invitation-only international swim meet first swum in Sydney in 1996 after the Atlanta Olympics, the brainchild of swimming's marketing and media men Mike Bushell and Ian Hanson.
UNIQUE SKINS FORMAT: The Qantas Skins format sees Australia's finest World Championship and Olympic swimmers up against some of the world's biggest names in a knockout format for a slice of the AUS$120,000 (US$60,000) prize pool. The race format is divided into three categories as follows:
50m Sprint Series: The 4×50 meters sprint series is contested by men and women in butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Each sprint series race starts with a total of five swimmers; the last placegetter is eliminated after each 50m sprint, until there are only two swimmers standing for a final face off in a gripping man-on-man/woman-on-woman dash to decide the winner. Each sprint race is swum every two minutes with prize money awarded accordingly to the competitors placing.
The Mystery Medley: is contested by a minimum of five swimmers for both men and women over 200 meters. Each of the lanes is allocated a different medley order, drawn randomly, prior to the event. Competitors are disqualified if they fail to swim the order allocated to their lane. Prize money for this event is awarded on overall placings.
400m freestyle: The 400 meters freestyle is contested by a minimum of five swimmers for both men and women. It is swum as 2 x 200 meter events with a one-minute rest between each 200 meters; the clock commences when the last competitor touches the wall. The prize money for this event is decided on an overall placings, based on each competitor's accumulated time for the two 200 meter events. Bonuses can also be awarded to the winner of each of the 200 meter events.
2001 QANTAS SKINS: Will be swum at the Sydney Aquatic Centre, Homebush Bay on Wednesday, December 5 and in another Qantas Skins first, this year's meet will be swum mid-week.
WHO IS SWIMMING THIS YEAR'S QANTAS SKINS: The Australians will be spearheaded by Grant Hackett, Matt Welsh, Geoff Huegill and Giaan Rooney, Leisel Jones, International swimmers will include some of the world's biggest names.
US SEEKING SKINS REVENGE: The USA swimmers, smarting after their demise at the hands of the Dolphins at this year's World Championships and Goodwill Games, will be among those determined to make a splash at this year's Skins.
PAST QANTAS SKINS STARS: In the past, the Qantas Skins has attracted such international swimming stars as South African, Penny Heyns, Dutch pairing, Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn, Americans Jenny Thompson and Gary Hall Jr. and The Flying Fin, Jani Sievinen.