By John Lohn
MONTREAL, Canada, July 24. LOOKING for a surprise? Well, it wasn’t going to happen here. After three silver-medal performances, Grant Hackett finally has his world championship in the 400-meter freestyle. The second-place finisher in 1998, 2001 and 2003, Hackett easily bested the competition in the eight-lap race, touching the wall in an impressive mark of 3:42.91.
In his three previous World Championships, the Australian was forced to settle for second place behind countryman Ian Thorpe. But, with Thorpe bypassing this meet and taking a sabbatical from the sport, Hackett took advantage of his opening. His surge to gold also became easier when American Michael Phelps failed to advance out of the morning preliminaries.
Regardless, Hackett wasn’t going to lose this race. In raising his World Championships medal haul to 10 of the individual variety, Hackett shot to the front of the pack and controlled the race wall-to-wall. En route to victory, he looked every bit capable of handling the arduous schedule he has adopted for the week. Hackett remains slated to swim the 200, 800 and 1,500 freestyles. He is seeking a fourth straight crown in the 1,500. Hackett’s splits for the race were 53.62 (100), 1:49.96 (200) and 2:46.84).
While Hackett blitzed the competition, a quality race shaped up in the chase for the silver and bronze medals. Russia’s Yuri Prilukov came through for silver with a time of 3:44.44, an effort made possible by a strong last half of the race. Prilukov became the sixth-fastest performer in history and finished ahead of Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli. A product of the University of Southern California, Mellouli earned bronze in 3:46.08.
The championship final was rounded out by Italy’s Massi Rosolino (3:46.91), Romania’s Dragos Coman (3:47.15), the United States’ Peter Vanderkaay (3:47.83), Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda (3:48.60) and France’s Nicolas Rostoucher (3:50.51).