By Claudia Weidlich & Craig Lord
Two world records and $30,000 of pocket money made day one of the world short-course championships in Athens "Neil Walker Day". The tall 23-year-old sprinter from Austin, Texas, gave warning of what was to come when he clocked 24.04sec in the heats of the 50m backstroke.
If that set the tone, the semi-final caused mouths to fall open and rivals, including Lenny Krazelburg, to shudder; 23.42 sec!
In the understatement of day one, he said: "This was a good day for Neil Walker." Indeed it was. The final was a formality, despite a Krazelburg's attempt to make a race of it. It ended 23.99sec to 24.24sec, a US one-two, but the slice off the world record in a day remained that staggering 0.62sec inside Australia Matt Welsh's 24.11sec. Rodolfo Falcon, of Cuba, was third a touch behind in 24.32sec.
Walker said: "I probably could have got the record again but I had a very big slip at the start. The pads were very slick."
Another Australian to lose his world record was the absent Michael
Klim, Lars Frolander setting out his stall for tomorrow's final of the 100m
butterfly with a 50.59sec, 0.4sec inside the previous best. Frolander
shared in a second world record later when Sweden's 4 x 100m freestyle relay of
Johan Nystrom, Frolander, Mattias Ohlin and Stefan Nystrand clocked 3mins
09.57 for victory over the US team.
The US was also defeated in the women's relay, the 4 x 200m, despite
Lindsay Benko's 1min 56.46sec American record lead off, an effort which
wiped Sippy Woodhead's 1978 standard, the oldest surviving US women's
record, off the books. The title and word record of 7:49.11 sec went to the
British quartet of Claire Huddart, Nicola Jackson, Karen Legg and Karen
Pickering. Thompson brought the US home inside previous world record pace
in 7:50.59, with China third on 7:52.70.
Speedo launched it's Fast.skin suit in Athens today and shrugged off
suggestions from Australia that the costume could be the subject of an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The suit, modeled from research into the skin of sharks at
London's Natural History Museum, is a bodyglove of black and silver, with
white seams that take 13,000 stitches and 1,800m of thread, said to help
FINA also rejected suggestions of illegality, saying that the word
"devices" in rule SW10.7 referred to aids to "speed, buoyancy and
endurance" such as flippers. Suits, it said, fell into the same category as
track suits and were not "devices".
The wording however is ambiguous, as Australian Olympic officials have
pointed out, and some fear that medal decisions could be overturned if a
swimmer not wearing the Fast.skin in Sydney chose to take the matter to