By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, September 5. THE Yokohama Pan Pacs are over.
Team USA were convincing winners over the Aussies this time around, 21 to 11 in the gold medal tally alone and a whopping 52 to 28 in the overall medal total.
As I glimpsed the Sydney Harbour Bridge just prior to touching down on home soil after returning from Japan, not only was I considering the prospect of getting a good steak for under 100 bucks, but also which of the many excellent performances produced at the meet could be considered "the BEST."
The Japanese sponsors gave away 1,000,000 Yen (US$8,500) for the best swim in a final on each of the six nights of competition based on FINA performance ratings.
Aussie freestyle aces Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett picked up two awards each. The unlucky swimmer on this basis was USA’s latest female shining star, Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin ran second in the point scoring on two nights and her performance in the final of the 100 backstroke (59.72), the second fastest swim behind her world record at the US trials, placed her second only three points adrift of the Thorpedo’s winning time in 200 freestyle final (1:44.75). However, it is believed Coughlin could not accept the money had she won, due to NCAA restrictions.
The leading scores each night were as follows:
Ian Thorpe 400 freestyle 3:45.28 992 points
Diana Munz 1500 freestyle 16:07.00 988 points
Grant Hackett 800 freestyle 7:44.78 1009
Michael Phelps 400 IM 4:12.48 1005
Ian Thorpe 200 freestyle 1:44.75 1018*
Natalie Coughlin 100 backstroke 59.72 1015*
Tom Malchow 200 butterfly 1:55.21 1001
Brendan Hansen 200 breast 2:11.80 989
Aaron Peirsol 200 backstroke 1:56.88 1004
Ian Thorpe 100 freestyle 48.84 986
Grant Hackett 1500 freestyle 14:41.65 1013*
Nat Coughlin 100 freestyle 53.99 1005*
No points were awarded for relay performances, although the US men’s 400 mdley relay team also won US$8,500 for breaking the world record. Unfortunately for Brendan Hansen and Aaron Peirsol their amateur status meant they could not accept a cut of the cash, and perhaps their share went to their teammates Jason Lezak and Michael Phelps.
However, there were some outstanding relay splits that must rank amongst the best individual swims of the meet.
Aussie Petria Thomas broke went under Jenny Thompson’s fastest all-time 100 fly split to clock 56.97.
Michael Phelps returned the favour for the US when he broke Geoff Huegill’s best split time in the men’s event clocking 51.13.
Then there was Thorpie’s brilliant 47.20 (equal 2nd best all-time behind Hoogie) finishing for the Aussies in the medley relay and American Brendan Hansen’s 3rd fastest split of 1:00.14 in the breaststroke.
Nat Coughlin clocked the 3rd fastest all-time 100 backstroke – 1:00.09 — and she owns the other two swims under the minute.
Lindsay Benko anchored the US women to a championship record in the 800 freestyle relay, clocking the 5th fastest all-time 200-meters – 1:58.25.
You be the judge.