By John Lohn
MELBOURNE, Australia, April 1. WITH the United States disqualified during the morning preliminary session, Australia walked through a wide-open door during the championship final of the 400 medley relay. Ending the meet with a gold medal, much to the delight of the home crowd, the foursome of Matt Welsh, Brenton Rickard, Andrew Lauterstein and Eamon Sullivan clocked in at 3:34.93.
The U.S. was ousted when Ian Crocker left early on his exchange with Scott Usher, leaving the final as a free-for-all. If the Americans had not been disqualified, there would have been no doubt as to the winner of the gold medal. But, there are prelims for a reason and Australia deserved credit for taking advantage of the situation.
Welsh led off for the Aussies in 54.78, a so-so start, but Rickard split 59.63 on the breaststroke leg to jumpstart the Aussies. Lauterstein followed in 52.63 and Sullivan brought it home in 47.89 while overtaking Japan's Daisuke Hosokawa. The Japanese grabbed silver in 3:35.16 as Tomomi Morita, Kosuke Kitajima and Takashi Yamamoto preceded Hosokawa.
"Getting the gold medal is fantastic," Rickard said. "It was a fitting end to a great week for us. With (Lauterstein and Sullivan) finishing it off, we knew we had a chance of winning."
The bronze medal went to the Russian foursome of Arkady Vyatchanin, Dmitry Komornikov, Nikolay Skvortsov and Evgeny Lagunov, who finished in 3:35.51. South Africa was fourth in 3:35.92 and Great Britain placed fifth in 3:36.18.