Australian Olympic Trials: Stephanie Rice Wins 200 IM; Nick D’Arcy Makes Olympic Team

By David Rieder

ADELAIDE, Australia, March 17. THE Australian Olympic Trials reached their midway point with another Paralympic world record as Stephanie Rice added a second event for London and Nick D'Arcy finally qualified for the Olympics after a tumultuous four years. Meanwhile, James Magnussen sparkled in semi-finals with the fastest time in the world in the 100 free.

Women 200 IM
Stephanie Rice qualified to defend her Olympic title in the 200 IM with a win over Alicia Coutts. Rice trailed Coutts the entire race before edging her rival at the finish. Rice checked in at 2:09.38, while Coutts took second in 2:09.83. Both jumped ahead of Hannah Miley's 2:10.77 as the top two times in the world. Rice's best time stands at 2:07.03 from 2009, while Coutts took the silver at the World Championships last year in 2:09.00.

Rice said afterwards that, “Coming into the meet I didn't have any expectation of time and I didn't really know where I was at. Because my preparation was so inconsistent I just came into this meet really open-minded and just wanted to race. Making the [Olympic] team was the biggest relief but the times I've done are really competitive and I know I've got so much I can work on in this next preparation.”
Emily Seebohm took third in 2:12.37, falling short of her 2:11.55 from February that ranks her fourth in the world. Seebohm touched second to Coutts after fly but fell out of the race after that. Seebohm already won the 100 back this week to earn a spot in her second Olympics, and she will also compete in the 100 free beginning on Monday.

Taylor McKeown (2:14.17), Ellen Fullerton (2:15.59), Samantha Wilkins (2:16.80), Ash Scott (2:18.38), and Kotuku Ngawati (2:19.99) all competed in the final.

Men 200 Fly
Nick D'Arcy earned a spot on his first Olympic team with a win in the 200 fly. Cut from the 2008 team after an altercation with Simon Cowley, D'Arcy received a suspended jail sentence and dealt with legal issues, most recently filing for bankruptcy. D'Arcy, however, thrust those issues aside and posted a 1:54.71 for the win in the 200 fly. That time knocked off Michael Phelps' 1:55.32 from the Columbus Grand Prix as the top time in the world. D'Arcy just missed his 2009 Australian record of 1:54.46 in the process.

“It's a fantastic feeling being able to go overseas and represent your country — especially as part of the Australian swimming team,” D'Arcy said. “I'm honoured to be a part of it and be able to repay my friends and family who have been behind me — I know they're going to be pretty excited as well.”

Christopher Wright used a stellar final 50 to overtake Grant Irvine for the second spot on the Olympic Team behind D'Arcy. Wright posted a 1:56.40 for sixth in the world, while Irvine clocked 1:56.67 for the ninth-ranked time in the world.

Travis Nederpelt (1:57.87), Declan Potts (1:59.71), Lachlan Staples (1:59.76), John Goo

Women 200 Free
Bronte Barratt held off Kylie Palmer down the stretch as both qualified for their second events in London. Barratt won in 1:55.99, ahead of Palmer's 1:56.04. Barratt tied Camille Muffat for third in the world, while Palmer moved to fifth. Only Sarah Sjostrom (1:55.23) and Allison Schmitt (1:55.82) have been faster. Neither Barratt nor Palmer, however, went their best times. Palmer holds the Australian record at 1:55.73 from this meet last year, while Barratt posted a 1:55.74 last year. Palmer also won the silver medal at the World Championships behind Federica Pellegrini.

Melanie Schlanger made her second Olympic team after finishing third in 1:56.73, while Brittany Elmslie finished fourth in 1:57.24. Swimming Australia will most likely take six swimmers for the 800 free relay, so Jade Neilsen (1:57.70) and Angie Bainbridge (1:57.74) should swim in London as well.

Blair Evans (1:57.91) and Merindah Dingjan (1:58.25) finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

Men 800 Free Relay
Melbourne's team of Mack Horton, Andrew Cameron, Daniel Blackborrow, and Jack Gerrard won this relay in 7:38.77, while Carlile took second in 7:42.35 and Norwood third in 7:44.05.

Men 100 Free
World Champion James Magnussen cruised into the final of the 100 free in 47.93, clipping his top-ranked time of 48.05 from last month. Matt Targett qualified second in 48.56, while James Roberts finished third in 48.60. Those times stood as third and fourth in the world, trailing just Magnussen and Michael Phelps (48.49). Tomasso D'Orsogna (48.66), Kyle Richardson (48.76), and defending Olympic silver medalist Eamon Sullivan (48.80) filled the next three spots, and fifth through seventh in the world rankings. Sullivan tied Yannick Agnel for that spot. Cameron McEvoy qualified seventh in 48.98, just missing the world top-ten, while Matt Abood got in with a 49.31.

Notably, 2000 Olympic silver medalist Michael Klim missed out on the final, finishing 15th in 50.23 after swimming a 49.79 in prelims. Klim will have one more shot in the 100 fly. As we reported earlier, Ian Thorpe's 2012 Olympic hopes died when he did not advance out of the prelims, finishing 21st.

Women 200 Fly
Defending Olympic bronze medalist Jessicah Schipper qualified first in 2:09.94 after finishing second early in the week in the 100 fly to earn a spot in her third Olympics. Samantha Hamill will seek her second Olympic Games after qualifying second in 2:10.14. Amy Smith finished third in 2:10.90, followed by Bria Throssell (2:12.18), Jordan White (2:13.05), Jackie Staples (2:13.32), Nicole Mee (2:13.40), and Leah Bird (2:14.46).

Men 200 Breast
Brenton Rickard crushed the semi-final field in the 200 breast, leading the way with a 2:10.99. Rickard won the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, and that time moves him to sixth in the world. Craig Calder earned lane five for the final with his 2:13.69, while Jeremy Meyer touched out Buster Sykes for the third spot, 2:14.22 to 2:14.24. Nicholas Schaefer (2:16.23), Nikolas Pregelj (2:16.53), Lennard Bremer (2:17.75), and Craig Tucker (2:18.16) earned the rest of the finals berths. Notably, world record-holder Christian Sprenger withdrew from the semi-final after finishing ninth in prelims in 2:20.31. Sprenger earned a spot on his second Olympic team early in the meet after edging Rickard for the 100 breast title.

Multi-Disability Finals
Blake Cochrane set the S8 world record in the men's 100 breast with a 1:19.06. Matthew Levy took second in 1:23.86, and Matthew Cowdrey grabbed third in 1:10.07.

Prue Watt won the women's 100 breast in 1:21.37, while Tanya Huebner finished second in 1:42.79. Amanda Fowler ended up third in 1:23.70.