It was once again a race to the bitter end between Hayley Lewis (AUS) and Brooke Bennett (USA), except that this time Lewis had had enough of being the runner-up. She took a very slight lead during the latter half of the race, and finished first in 8:28.78. Bennett, obviously put off that she had missed her third gold medal, was second in 8:29.21. Trina Jackson, also of the USA was third in 8:36.61.
For the first time in her international career Joanne Malar was not having a great meet. Despite having the fastest time in the world, she had missed the medals in the 400 IM. She then pulled out of the 200 backstroke to save herself for the 200 IM. It turned out to be the right decision. Although she was unable to fend off Elli Overton of Australia, she did come through with a silver medal for Canada and a personal best time of 2:15.45.
Joanne Malar, Elli Overton and Anna Windsor on the podium after receiving their medals. For larger 80k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Overton set an Australian national record, winning the event in 2:14.68. Malar's time was just shy of making the Olympic preselection standard. "I'm really happy with it," she said, "It was a best time, a good race. I'm really glad to get a best time at a big meet. After the first day I wasn't so sure but I'm happy I could come back and swim well."
Third place went to Anna Windsor of Australia in 2:16.13. Canada's other finalist, Marianne Limpert, was 5th in 2:17.28.
Team Canada had been waiting for this one. After a fantastic meet in Winnipeg at the Nationals, Curtis Myden was also having a rough time in Atlanta. Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps just general end-of-the-year fatigue. Whatever it was, he got it together for his last race, and although he was no match once again for Tom Dolan (USA) or Matthew Dunn (AUS), he did manage to outswim rival Eric Namesnik (USA).
Dolan won the event in 2:00.89, while Dunn was second in 2:01.48, a new Aussie national record. Myden had to content himself with a bronze with his time of 2:01.80.
"It was pretty much the race I wanted to swim," he said. "I was hoping for a little faster and maybe just a little higher in the medals but I'm pleased overall with how the race went."
Mark Versfeld of Canada was also in the final, finishing 5th in 2:03.56.
American Amy van Dyken was obviously on. She had wowed the crowd in the morning heats with a Pan Pacific record swim of 25.19, and the evening was anybody's bet.
When the women looked up from the finish, it was van Dyken in first place, with a new American and Pan Pacific record of 25.03. The time puts her in third place on the all time list of performances, behind Jingyi Le (24.51) and Wenyi Yang (24.79) of China. A smiling Van Dyken said, "That's the fastest this race has ever been swum by a "clean" swimmer." With no Chinese at the Championships, the victory was sweet. No doubt next year in Atlanta she'll have her work cut out for her. Winning the silver was Jenny Thompson (USA) in 25:38, and the bronze went to Sumika Minamoto of Japan in 25.74.
Shannon Shakespeare of Canada was 5th in 25.90, a new Canadian record.
Gary Hall Jr. was not about to get off of his cloud as he savoured his international victories. A third gold medal was his for the taking in the 50 freestyle, but not without a little work on the touch. He touched in 22.30, a mere 1/100 of a second ahead of his teammate David Fox, who claimed the silver in 22.31.
"That's as close as it gets," said Hall. "I'm looking forward to that relay and I'm looking forward to next year."
In third place was Chris Fydler of Australia in 22.64.
Samantha Riley had something to prove on Sunday. And prove it she did, although had it not been for 5/100 of a second, the satisfaction would have been complete. After her disastrous disqualification two days earlier, Riley came back with a vengeance, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that she is the one to beat in women's breaststroke.
Using the same stroke that had earned her a seat in the stands for the 100, she was out in a 1:09.52, and despite a terrific second half (36.48, 38.41) she was just a fraction short of the world record of 2:24.76, held by her teammate Rebecca Brown.
She touched in 2:24.81, well ahead of South Africa's Penny Heyns. The time set a new Pan Pac record. "I just can't believe it," said Riley, "Coming into the race I was thinking I could do a really fast time. I was just so determined after what happened to me two days ago. But it was my best time by nearly a second so I'm still happy."
Samantha Riley of Australia beginning to pull ahead of Penelope Heyns of South Africa, went on to win the race just narrowly missing the world record by 5/100's of a second. For larger 72k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Heyns' time of 2:27.68 set a new national record for South Africa. In third place was Amanda Beard (USA) in 2:28.20.
Guylaine Cloutier and Lisa Flood of Canada were 7th (2:30.41) and 8th (2:31.05) respectively.
The Japanese men's team claimed their first gold medal with Akira Hayashi's victory in the 200 breaststroke. Holding a clear lead, Hayashi surged to the finish in 2:13.60, establishing a new national record for Japan. Eric Wunderlich (USA) took the silver in 2:15.29, while Philip Rogers (AUS) was third in 2:15.32.
Canada's veteran Jon Cleveland was 5th in 2:17.56.
Akira Hayashi celebrating his winning finish which established a new Japanese national record with a time of 2:13.60.
For larger 80k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Kieren Perkins had one last chance to get back on top, as it were, and he did not waste it. With his teammate Daniel Kowalski having swum a respectable 15:02.20 in the morning heats, he was without his key rival, and had to swim his race on his own.
The 1500 title was too dear to him to let go, and he maintained his supremacy, winning it in 14:58.92. "Every time you get under 15 minutes, it's a good swim," said Perkins. "Even though my best mark is a 14:41, 15 minutes is still a tough barrier. My stroke has been good even though it took me eight months to get it right. My fitness is where I've been lacking and I've been expecting that. The times that I have done have been a lot better than I thought they would be."
Kowalski ended up placing second with his morning swim, while Thomas Bruner (USA) claimed the bronze in 15:17.13, well behind the Aussie distance pair. Canadian Mike McWha was 7th in 15:44.39.
The Aussie women had had a great meet and they gave it one last whack in the medley relay. The Americans were no match for the powerful breaststroke and fly legs of Sam Riley (1:07.19) and Susan O'Neill (58.82). Nicole Stevenson led off the backstroke in 1:01.95, and Sarah Ryan finished up with a 54.97 freestyle leg. Their final time: 4:02.93, a new national and Pan Pacific record and a five second drop from their best time a year ago.
Anchor leg Ryan said, "I had to make up for my individual swim the other day. The Aussies are on fire! We're electric!"
In second place was the USA in 4:05.6. Japan edged out Canada for third in 4:07.18. Canada's fourth place time of 4:08.13 was nevertheless a new national record, and Julie Howard's backstroke lead-off of 1:02.75 improved yet again (the third time in three weeks) on her own national record.
The United States had little to worry about in the medley relay, setting another Pan Pacific record to finish up the meet. Jeff Rouse was out in 54.58 in the backstroke, followed by Eric Wunderlich in the breaststroke in 1:01.67. Mark Henderson's fly was very strong (52.84) and, as usual, Gary Hall went for broke, posting a terrific anchor time of 47.95 for his fourth gold medal of the meet.
The Americans should see some good competition from the Russians next year at the Olympic rendezvous, and what with the meet being at home, they'll be out for gold and nothing less. As Henderson said, "We've always won that relay and as long as we're swimming we're gonna make sure that happens."
The silver medal went to Australia with a time of 3:39.62 (a national record).Japan took the bronze in 3:42.32.The Canadian team was 5th in 3:43.37.