1999 Telstra Australian Championships
Pan Pacific Trials

Hackett Moves Into The Limelight


Paul Quinlan

BRISBANE- The Australians trialled not only for the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, but were also the first FINA nation to try the new eight-day Olympic program at the Sleeman Complex, March 20-27.

The experiment was a moderate success and would hold up well at an Olympic Games, when the public would tolerate as few as three finals and several semi-finals at any one evening session. However, it does become expensive to run a nationals meet from the organisers' and participants' point of view. Given the experience of the eight days and semi-finals at the nationals once and the Olympic Games, competitors and selectors should have the knowledge to plan their events for the big meets.

Australia will consider changing its nationals program back to fewer than eight days.

The program did not hamper the quality of the swimming. In many instances, swimmers improved with each added competitive experience as they progressed from prelims to semis to finals. It is certainly an improvement on having B finals.

The men's freestyle events were the most spectacular of the championships, with Grant Hackett surpassing Ian Thorpe as the star. Hackett took the 200/1500 double. Talk before the meet was on whether Thorpe would break the 200 world record, but that didn't happen.

It was a surprise, then, for Hackett to come away with the 200 freestyle world record from a masterly timed solo effort in a lead-off leg of a club relay on day four. Thorpe was second in the individual 200 with 1:47.08, and Michael Klim third, 1:47.98

Australia now has three men under 1:48 and another improver with a low 1:49 to set them up for a new world record at the Pan Pacs next August in the 4x200 free.

Hackett, Thorpe, or Klim could break the new 200 free world record inside the next twelve months; the successful contenders may have to do just that to get the individual swims on the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games team.

The old and new 200 freestyle world record splits for Lamberti and Hackett were: Lamberti 0:25.24 0:52.42 1:19.74 1:46.69 Hackett 0:25.15 0:51.98 1:19.67 1:46.67

Thorpe swam superbly to record the highest (1011) point rating of the meet with a 3:43.85 in taking gold in the 400 free, just 5/100ths of a second off Kieren Perkins' record. Once again his friendly foe, Hackett, was second with 3:45.59 for a 1000-point rating.

Grant Hackett became only the second swimmer to go under the 14:50 barrier in the 1500 freestyle when he swam 14:48.63 on the last day, recording a score of 1007. The Aussies now hold first (Perkins), second (Hackett), fourth (Kowalski), and fifth (Housman) places on the world all-time 25 best list. Jorg Hoffman is now relegated to third place after Hackett's great swim.

Perkin's records still stand in the 400 and 1500. Which will go first? My bet is the 400; but then, we were all wrong about the 200, weren't we?

Chris Fydler and Michael Klim shared the honours for the sprint freestyle events, with Australia showing improvement and some depth in that area.

In the women's freestyle sprint events we saw a new champion, 16-year-old Rebecca Creedy, take over the mantle from Sarah Ryan and Susan O'Neill with 26.15 in the 50 (PB 25.98) and 56.12 in the 100 (PB 56.07).

Susan O'Neill was the best women's freestyler, swimming a new Commonwealth record of 1:59.11 in the 200 free, also taking the fifteen-year-old Australian record, 1:59.79 by Michelle Pearson (1984).

Women's middle distance freestyle still lags behind Australian standards of the past, but some improvement was shown in the depth. Head Coach Don Talbot will expect still better than was shown by the medallists in the 400, won by Julia Greville in 4:14.20, and in the 800, won by Rachel Harris, 8:38.19. Bests to date by Australians in these events are Tracey Wickham, 4:06.28 (1978) and Julie McDonald, 8:22.93 (1987).

Men's backstroke saw the emergence of a new champion in South African-born Ray Hass, who took the double in the 100 (55.74) and the 200 (2:01.11), moving up to third in both Australian all-time-best lists.

Giaan Rooney, 16, was the winner of the sprint backstroke in 1:02.91, while Emma Johnson returned from the USA to win selection in the 200 backstroke with 2:15.83. Top-rated 200 backstroker Meredith Smith was again sidelined with an injury, this time dislocation of the shoulder.

The male breaststrokers were all below par and it seemed that they were tapering for the World Short Course championships to be held the following week in Hong Kong.

Samantha Riley ruled the roost in winning the two selection events in breaststroke, with arch rival Helen Denman off the boil, not even medalling in the her favourite event, the 100 sprint. Denman did, however, win the 50 event.

In butterfly, the best men were the sprinters, with Geoff Huegill and Michael Klim continuing their battle for supremacy in the 100. This time it was the Touretski-trained Klim who touched out Coach Ken Wood's protege, Huegill, 53.10 to 53.12 in the tightest of finishes.

An improved William Kirby won the men's 200 from come-back kid Scott Goodman, recording a fine 1:58.99 at this stage. We'll hear more about this pair in the next year.

Susan O'Neill was once again the top woman of the meet with her 200 fly time of 2:07.35 rating 1001, a time still within reach of Mary T's record. Petria Thomas once again played the bridesmaid to O'Neill, this time by the narrow margin of 59.81 to 59.85 in the sprint butterfly distance.

The men's 400 medley saw the return of Matt Dunn to this event following his declared dropping of it last year. Dunn won convincingly in 4:18.24 over Trent Steed, 4:21.98.

Another 400 I.M. win for Matthew Dunn
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Patrick Kramer

It was prophetic for Matt to return to the 400 IM. Later in the week he was forced to withdraw from the 200 IM due to a virus attack. This event went to long-time runner up and national team member Rob van der Zant, 2:03.19, over promising junior Justin Norris, 2:04.30. Lori Munz, who scratched from the final of the 200 freestyle on the same night, was the gold medallist in the 200 IM with 2:16.33, over Olympic bronze medallist Elli Overton, 2:17.73.

The Roger Bruce-coached, 15-year-old Jennifer Reilly from Perth, was the winner in the distance medley in 4:46.91, easily defeating Jacinta van Lint, 4:49.75. It was a promising swim for Reilly, with better to come by the Pan Pacs.

The national team for the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, announced as 54 strong, can be found at www.swimnews.com.