Final Night, Australian Olympic Trials: Lenton Breaks National 50 Free Aussie Record – 24.70, Welsh Lowers 100 Backstroke Commonwealth Record, Hackett Takes His Eighth Consecutive 1500 in 14:55.45

By Stephen J. Thomas

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, April 3. QUEENSLAND 19-year-old Libby Lenton tonight regained her Australian record fot the 50 free on the last night of competition at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre when she flew home in the one-lap dash in 24.70 – taking 0.12 of a second off her previous best set in controversial circumstances at the Dual in the Pool in Indianapolis.

Lenton's old record had fallen only yesterday to Michelle Engelsman in the prelims. Tonight Engelsman made it to the wall second in 24.80, trimming 0.03 off the previous AR set yesterday. She becomes the first member of Gary Hall Jr.'s Race Club to make the Australian or US Olympic team.

Jodie Henry and Alice Mills also broke 25-seconds, in their case for the first time, with Henry the winner of the 100 freestyle, edging out Mills for third – 24.92 to 24.94.

Men’s 1500 Freestyle:
World record-holder and Olympic champion Grant Hackett was up for his eighth consecutive national title in his signature event. There was some talk leading into the meet was that Hackett might be planning to have a shot at his world record of 14:34.56. This was far from the reality.

According to his coach Denis Cotterell, Hackett had been battling an ongoing chest infection that is asthma related and has been on a course of antibiotics since Tuesday. Just two days ago he had some doubts that the distance champion would be able to swim the gruelling race. Undeterred by the problem, Hackett lined up in lane four.

As the race unfolded, Hackett was out to more than a four seconds lead over his nearest rival, Craig Stevens, at the 400, turning in 3:52.37. By the 800 he had turned his lead into more than six seconds – 7:52.27- over Stevens, who was in clear second place. At the 1200 the margin was up to ten seconds -11:54.38 and Hackett went on to touch after the 30-laps in 14:55.45 – his seventh consecutive sub-15 minute finish in these championships.

Craig Stevens just failed to become the fifth Aussie to go under the 15-minute mark when he finished in 15:01.64. Stevens had already qualified for the 400 freestyle behind Hackett, after the disqualification of world record-holder Ian Thorpe had left the door open for him.

After the race the crowd booed the poolside interviewer when he was asked if he would contest the 400 freestyle in Athens. There has been unprecedented media speculation Down Under in relation to his situation with many saying Stevens might stand aside for Thorpe if he also qualified for the 1500. Stevens said tonight he would take a week off to think about what has been the most challenging week of his career.

Ky Hurst, the 23-year-old surf lifesaving champion and training partner of Hackett, swam a PR 15:17.56 to become the 10th fastest Aussie all-time performer just in front of 18-year-old Travis Nederpelt, PR 15:17.81.

Canadian Kurtis MacGillivary, who lives in Queensland and trains with Grant Hackett, broke the oldest Canadian men’s record in the book when he clocked 15:11.38 in the heat yesterday.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke:
Brooke Hanson trimmed 0.01 of a second off her national record set yesterday to win the one-lap title for the third time. It was Hanson’s third title of the meet adding to her wins in the 100 breaststroke and 200IM. Jade Edmistone took second in a PR 31.49 from the winner of the 200, Leisel Jones (31.57).

Men’s 50 Backstroke:
National and Commonwealth record-holder Matt Welsh had little trouble collecting his seventh title in this event splashing 25.49. Earlier in the night the 27-year-old, clocked 53.78 taking 0.11 of a second off his previous Commonwealth record in a relay time trial. Minor placing in this non-Olympic event was Ryan Pini (26.13) of Papua New Guinea, just ahead of Josh Watson (26.14).