20th Anniversary Of Week Susie & “The Thorpedo” Headlined Australia’s 2000 Olympic Swim Trials

2000 OLY SW TRIALS Go Klim in crowd
CROWDED HOUSE: More than 100,000 fans turned out over eight days for Australia's 2000 Olympic Swim Trials.Photo Courtesy Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

20th Anniversary of Sydney 2000 Olympic swimming trials in Australia

It was a magical time for swimming in Australia – one week in May in the year 2000 when 665 swimmers gathered in Sydney, some seven years after the International Olympic Committee announced that Sydney had won the right to stage the 2000 Olympic Games.

That was 1993 and Kieren Perkins was Australia’s only Olympic champion from Barcelona in 1992 and a successful defence in Atlanta was well underway; “swim sisters” Susie O’Neill and Sam Riley had both won bronze under a Spanish sun that also saw Hayley Lewis, Nicole Livingstone, Glen Housman and Phil Rogers shine individually on the Olympic stage.

Ian Thorpe was just 11 and already a large lump of a lad, lapping up and down the 25m Padstow Indoor Pool in Sydney’s western suburbs; Grant Hackett was 13 and chasing his Ironman brother Craig Hackett around Miami and Leisel Jones was just seven years of age and not long out of swimming nappies.

Fast forward seven years to May 13, 2000 and Day One of the Sydney Selection Trials and Thorpe, Hackett and Jones, amongst many others, had progressed to join the sport’s biggest names as Sydney prepared to welcome the world for the Games of the 27th Olympiad.

But first they all had to qualify at arguably Australia’s toughest ever Trials meet –eight days from May 13 to May 20 that produced world records, thrilling racing, cheers from a record crowd, tears as dreams were shattered and a 44-strong team that would realise only the second ever home Games since Melbourne 1956.

Thorpedo trimmed 2

WORLD RECORD FENZY: It was a case of 3 world records from 3 swims for “The Thorpedo” at the Sydney 2000 Trials. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

And it was a meet to remember with three world records to Thorpe (the 400m and twice over 200m) and finally..finally the 200m butterfly world mark to the next “Madam Butterfly” Susie O’Neill who erased the 19-year-old mark of the original “Madam” Mary T Meagher set in 1981 in Brown Deer.

Day one and it was a record breaking start to the Trials which saw a record 100,000 spectators over eight days; record ratings on Channel Nine and Fox with ratings reaching an average of 27 over the week – peaking ay 32.8 on day three and the men’s 200m freestyle final.

The Telstra 2000 Selection Trials website was swamped with 15 million hits of which 35.4 percent came from the Americas with swimmers receiving 10,000 hero-nets and 5000 faxes from an adoring fan-base, counting down to a September Games start.

The ratings boom came largely on the back of Thorpe – the 17-year-old wonder boy from the west of Sydney who opened up day one with the first of his three world records in the final of the men’s 400m freestyle.

He smashed his own world mark by half-a-second in clocking 3:41.33 with his partner in crime Hackett finishing second and giving the leading lads the first two spots on the team.

And the level-headed as always Thorpe kept those size 17s fairly on the pool deck saying: “The time was pretty irrelevant – I actually made the Olympic Games – that’s what I’m excited about.”

And the best was yet to come as the trip to Homebush for the swimming became the hottest ticket in town.

2000 OLY SW TRIALS Jen Reilly

LIFE OF REILLY: WA IMer Jennifer Reilly ticks the first selection box for Sydney 2000. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

WA girls Jennifer Reilly and Rachel Harris would make it a stellar night for the golden west – and set the scene for a Trials to remember for Western Australia – with their 1-2 finish in the women’s 400IM.

Night two saw Thorpe steal the show again – this time producing his second world record in two nights, lowering his own 200m freestyle mark for the third time to 1:45.69.

Additions to the team for a second Olympics saw Petria Thomas – the girl from Mullumbimby on the NSW Northern Rivers ending O’Neill’s decade of National Championship domination with both girls securing their places – O’Neill for a third and final time.

Veteran South Australian breaststroker Rogers would also claim his third team taking his 22nd National title in the 100m breaststroke from Queensland’s Regan Harrison.

Night three would herald Jones’s arrival onto her first Olympic team in the 100m breaststroke at just 14 at a meet which would sadly see the departure of undisputed queen Sam Riley – racing just a week after being released from hospital with a kidney infection.

Jones’ Redcliffe training partner Tarnee White would make it a 1-2 Games triumph for the wily Ken Wood.

While the Thorpedo fired off another world record rocket, his seventh, taking down his record from the night before to 1:45.51 with Michael Klim qualifying for his second Games team – finishing second.

2000 OLY SW TRIALS Matt Welsh claim

STAKING HIS CLAIM: Backstroking ace Matt Welsh off to his first Olympics in 2000. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

The men’s 100 backstroke saw Victoria’s Matt Welsh continue his climb up the international ladder and qualify for his first Olympic team alongside Josh Watson with O’Neill signaling what was to come with her Commonwealth record time of 1:57.47 in the semi-finals of the 200m freestyle.

It was Susie’s night on Day Four when she became the greatest gold medal winner at an Australian Championship, winning her 34th National crown in the 200m freestyle ahead of Giaan Rooney and Thomas before signalling her intentions in the 200m butterfly with her sizzling 2:06.51 – 0.55 outside the WR.

And she topped the pops the following night, on May 17, 2000 – taking down Mary T with a phenomenal swim of 2:05.81, taking just 0.15secs of the mark that had lasted the best part of two decades – telling us all just how amazing she truly was.

2000 OLY SW TRIALS Susie Dance

BUTTERFLY BOOGIE: Dance party for Susie O’Neill as she celebrates her world record in the 200m butterfly. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

O’Neill celebrated with her “Butterfly boogie” dance – which had been rehearsed at a Brisbane night club some 12 months before – which she had promised to perform if and when she broke the record – and she didn’t disappoint – pulling out all stops.

“Finally,” O’Neill said after her pool deck dance…I saw the time and saw the world record flash up. It was one of the greatest moments of my life

“I just felt really strong in the water,” O’Neill said. “I knew I was going to touch, and when I heard the reaction from the crowd I knew I had done it.”

Klim and Huegill

DYNAMIC DUO: Michael Klim (L) and Geoff Huegill) were a formidable force in butterfly while Klim also showed what a star he was in freestyle, winning g the 100m at the Trials. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

Klim wasn’t going to be deny his place in the sun, clocking the fastest time in the world for 2000 with his Commonwealth record time of 48.56 ahead of two time Games veteran Chris Fydler who broke 49 seconds for the first time on his way to a third Games.

Day six saw Riley’s swan song from Australian Championships as comeback girls Caroline Hildreth and former world record holder Rebecca Brown sink an all-star final with AIS-based SA freestyler Sarah Ryan nailing her second Games tam in the 100m freestyle and Matt Dunn a third Games in the 200IM.

2000 OLY SW TRIALS Hayley front cover

POSTER GIRL: Hayley Lewis celebrating a third Olympic Team and featured on the front cover of the Swimming Australia Magazine. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

What a memorable Day Seven it was for “Super Mum” Hayley Lewis, coming back from her 1992 and 1996 Games appearances to make it a third with a stunning all-the-way win in the women’s 800m freestyle in 8:35.56 from Harris – with Lewis making the team just two years after giving birth to son Jacob Joe – named after her original coach Joe King.

Geoff Huegill sank Klim in a thrilling 100m butterfly final ahead of Adam Pine with Atlanta silver medallist Scott Miller fourth – his dream of a home Games lost in wash of the new breed, while NSW North Coaster Dyana Calub secured her second event for the Games adding the 200m backstroke to her win in the 100m.

The final night of what would be memorable week in he pool at Sydney Olympic Park saw young gun Hackett and Perkins line up in “Australia’s race” the 1500m freestyle – Hackett already on the team and sentimental favourite Perkins “the King” chasing a place on his third.

IMG_0290

THE KING AND I: Grant Hackett with Kieren Perkins after the paired finished 1-2 at the 2000 Olympic Trials. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook (Sport The Library).

Hackett proved too good, too strong and too fast for the two-time Olympic champion and reigning world record holder who tried valiantly to stay in touch with the fired up Gold Coaster.

It was Hackett first in 14:56.35 with Perkins making his third team in 15:01.14 and Sydney teenager Craig Stevens, who would make a name for himself four years later, in third.

And it would become Hackett’s time with Perkins a class act till the end of a stellar career – with the changing of the guard imminent in a year of sport in Australia’s history, chronicled in its annals as one to be treasured – especially in the pool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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