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Kukla, 14, Cracks World Champ Guehrer

Mar 17, 2010  - Craig Lord

Australia witnessed a star ascending on day two of Commonwealth Games trials and nationals in Sydney today. Watch for the name Yolane Kukla, the 4th woman ever to break 26sec over 50m 'fly in a textile suit. Quicker than Jenny Thompson was. She is also just 14. And off to Delhi in October...

Kukla was back in the race pool within the hour for a third-place finish in the 100m free semis, on 55.06. That race raised one of Australia's areas of concern (the 4x100m free, see semis reports at foot of this file), and if Kukla and those around her needed a reminder that there is a long journey ahead (and they will surely not have needed such a reminder), then they would have looked no further than those semis of the 100m free, in which Cate Campbell was among those who missed the cut.

Kukla was not the only teenager on the march today: just 1.3sec split 1st to 7th and 0.33sec split the medals in a 200m free final won by Nick Ffrost in 1:47.50, with one of the revelations of the champs in Sydney, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, 18, on a 1:47.66 for second. Kukla and former champion surf swimmer Fraser-Holmes set the pool alight at the 2009 Australian Age Championships at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre last year and are already well known in swim circles Down Under.

Room still left for the veterans, however: 10 years after winning medals at the 2000 Olympic Games, Leisel Jones, 24, wins the 50m breaststroke, and Geoff Huegill, 31, finds himself in lane 4 for the 50m 'fly final. Reports below.

In the 50m back final, Aussie record holder Ashley Delaney finds himself in 4th as 0.03sec split 1st to 3rd in a thriller of a finish. Lethal Leisel goes below 31sec for second time this year to win 50m breaststroke crown. 

Australian Nationals and Commonwealth Games Trials - Day 2

Women 50m Butterfly

The scribblings on Yolane Kukla began when she was 12 and was heralded as "the next Thorpey" Down Under (wrong gender, but we get the drift). In the first finals on day 2 at Commonwealth Games trials in Sydney, Kukla, now 14, made her first big splash in senior waters, taking down world champion Marieke Guehrer to win the 50m butterfly in 25.92, to 26.28. The bronze and third berth for Delhi went to Emily Seebohm in 26.47. 

Kukla, from Brisbane, has been knocking spots off nationals records for the past two years. Blessed with big hands and feet, according to Aussie reports, she now trains with coach Michael Palfery at the St Peters Western programme run by head coach Michael Bohl, mentor to triple Olympic champ Stephanie Rice. 

Kukla is the youngest girl to make an international senior Australian team since 13-year-old Jodie Clatworthy made the grade for the  1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. Nicknamed "Yo Yo" and being referred to Down Under today as the "pocket rocket", Kukla is a former gymnast who transferred to the pool. She told the Aussie media after her race: "Oh my god! I did not think I'd go there. Thank you so much mum and thank you Mick (Palfery) for being such a great coach."

Too young and inexperienced to have made it on to the list of official Swimming Australia biogs - until now - Kukla was once told by Libby Trickett, shorter than many of her sprint peers, not to be intimidated by the height around here. Palfery told the Aussie media in Sydney: "Libby said to her 'don't panic when you see everyone who is a foot taller than you ... look at me, I held the record at one stage and I matched abilities with girls quite a lot bigger than me' ... and I think Yo got a bit out of that."

The time on the clock is impressive. It is faster than the heats time clocked by visitor, Therese Alshammar (SWE), the world record holder, and in terms of textile-suit standards makes  Kukla only the third woman to break 26sec, after Inge De Bruijn (NED, 2000, 25.64), Anna-Karin Kammerling (SWE, 2002, 25.57) and Alshammar (2007, 25.46). The shiny suits world record stands to Alshammar at 25.07, while Guehrer claimed the world crown in 25.48, a Commonwealth record.

If youth is on Kukla's side, so too is circumstance: she never had to spend 45mins or so before a major race squeezing into a non-textile number that would have masked her precise abilities as a world-class athlete. Her only marker in 2010 is where she is not where she was. 

The Times Transition (Aussie trials, 2008, 09, 10 and Rome 2009 top 2 Aussies):

  • 2008: 26.48; 26.61; 26.72
  • 2009: 25.60; 26.02; 26.21
  • Rome 2009: 25.48; 26.41 (s)
  • 2010: 25.92; 26.28; 26.47

The 50m events are feeling the bite of textile

Men 50m backstroke

Ashley Delaney, Aussie record holder on 24.81 in 2009, found himself locked out of the Aussie team for the sprint backstroke at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October. The race for gold was a thriller, almost as tight as it could be, with 0.03sec splitting first and third. Hayden Stoekel, coached by John Fowlie at the Canberra AIS centre and racing for Norwood, got his fingertip to the wall first, on 25.06, followed by Daniel Arnamnart, on 25.08, and Ben Treffers, on 25.18. Delaney, who clocked 25.02 in the semi-finals at the world championships in Rome last July, was forced to settle for 4th, on 25.13. 

The race marked a good moment for Stoeckel not only because he won: his best had been a 25.09, from 2008, while shiny suit year 2009 proved to be a down year for the 25-year-old who took a break after winning silver in 4x100m medley, bronze in 100m back and finishing 6th in 200m back at Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Times Transition (Aussie trials, 2008, 09, 10 and Rome 2009 top 2 Aussies):

  • 2008: 25.18; 25.47; 25.52
  • 2009: 24.81; 25.15; 25.36
  • Rome 2009: 25.02 (s) 
  • 2010: 25.06; 25.08; 25.09

The times are a second down on world record pace of 2009, with holder Liam Tancock a couple of weeks away from laying down a textile-suit-season marker at British trials in Sheffield.

Women 50m breaststroke

Before poly put the kettle on in the race pool, Leisel Jones was second-best ever over 50m breaststroke, on 30.55. Today, the 100m Olympic champion coached by Rohan Taylor at Nunawading in Victoria, claimed the Aussie crown and a berth at the Commonwealth Games in 30.87, fastest in the world this year so far. Second went to Leiston Pickett, 18, on 31.06, with Commonwealth record holder of 2009 Sarah Katsoulis (30.16) third in 31.12. The raced marked the second time that Jones had dipped below the 31sec mark this year.

On her status as a veteran of the Aussie team 10 years after her debut Olympic Games, Jones told AAP: "I think I'm enjoying it even more just for the sake of just racing. I feel like now I can just come here, do my job and leave. I don't have to hang around and I don't have to take swimming away from the pool. When you're younger you sort of hang around, watch other people swim and compare yourself but now I just swim and that's it."

The 24-year-old who was 15 when she won silver at the 2000 Olympic Games over 100m breaststroke, joked that she felt "senior" after having watched Kukla's exploits earlier in the session.

The Times Transition (Aussie trials, 2008, 09, 10 and Rome 2009 top 2 Aussies):

  • 2008: 30.66; 31.13; 31.69
  • 2009: 30.65; 30.75; 30.90
  • Rome 2009: 30.16; 30.91
  • 2010: 30.87; 31.06; 31.12

The impact of shiny suits will be felt keenly on the clock in 50m events. The shiny suit world record stands to Jessica Hardy (USA) at 29.80.

Men 200m freestyle

Just 1.3sec split 1st to 7th and 0.33sec split the medals in a 200m free final won by Nick Ffrost in 1:47.50, with one of the revelations of the champs in Sydney, Thomas Fraser-Holmes, 18, on a 1:47.66, ahead of a 1:47.83 for Kendrick Monk. If they took the solo berths for Delhi, then Patrick Murphy (1:48.30), Tommasso D'Orsogna (1:48.44) and Robert Hurley (1:48.61) came next in line for 4x200m berths, with Ryan Napoleon, already on the team over 400m, on 1:48.82. 

Coached by Glenn Baker at Southport, Ffrost turned second at the half-way mark, on 52.22, to 51.86 for 19-year-old D'Orsogna, with one of the other two teenagers in the race, Fraser-Holmes, the Newcastle boy who joined coach Vince Raleigh's "Olympic medallists" squad at the AIS last year, pressing on 52.62. D'Orsogna kept the pressure and pace up down the third lap, splitting 1:19.51 at the last turn to retain a 0.28sec lead over Ffrost, with Fraser-Holmes a further 0.52sec adrift. But on the way home D'Orsogna found the going tough and a 28.93 last lap split saw him fall back four places, the swiftest finisher Monk, on 27.00, which, interestingly, was faster than the split he came home in when finishing 5th at the world championships in Rome last summer, though the overall time was well down on his sub 1:46sec best.

D'Orsogna was just a touch outside his 2009 best, while Fraser-Holmes blew away his 1:48.74 lifetime best and Napoleon got 0.01sec inside his 2009 best. Fraser-Holmes is versatile too: in the 17-18 years 400m medley at Australian Age Championship last year, he won his first national crown and bropke the six-year-old Australian and Australian All-Comers record held by duel Olympian Travis Nederpelt in 2003.

The Times Transition (Aussie trials, 2008, 09, 10 and Rome 2009 top 2 Aussies):

  • 2008: 1:47.03; 1:47.10; 1:47.17
  • 2009: 1:46.85; 1:47.27; 1:48.10
  • Rome 2009: 1:45.46; 1:46.70 (s)
  • 2010: 1:47.50; 1:47.66; 1:47.83

Australia is building a very useful and young 4x200m free quartet


In the 50m butterfly, Olympic medal winner from 2000, Geoff Huegill, qualified fastest for the final with his equal-second best time set in a textile suit. The 31-year-old took out the semi-final in 23.60, the same time he set in breaking the world record at the trials for the Sydney Olympics ten years ago before improving the mark to 23.44 in at the world championships in Japan the following year. "I'm really happy with that, for me that's a former world record that mark," Huegill told reporters in Sydney. Next through to the final, Andrew Lauterstein, on 23.89, and Mitchell Patterson on 23.97.

The women's 100m free semis provided evidence that Australia is suffering a moment of potential weakness in and event that has been one of its great strengths in recent years: the 4x100m free relay. Gone are Libby Trickett and Jodie Henry. They will be much missed. In Sydney today, Cate Campbell and Felicity Galvez (tied for 9th on 55.47) and Marieke Guehrer (12th) were among those who missed the cut for the final. The only sub 55sec efforts came from Alicia Coutts, of Redlands, on 54.94, with multi-eventer Emily Seebohm on 55.01 and Yolane Kukla, 14-year-old winner of the 50m 'fly ahead of Guehrer, on 55.06, and Sally Foster on 55.06. Bronte Barratt and Alice Mills are still in the running for a relay berth.

World champion and record holder on 58.58 in 2009, Brenton Rickard, of Southport, clocked 1:00.80 to take lane four for the final of the 100m breaststroke ahead of 200m world record holder in 2009, Christian Sprenger, on 1:01.18.

Seebohm, 17, cruised into lane four for the final of the 100m backstroke with a 1:00.26 effort. Either side of her tomorrow will be Belinda Hocking, on 1:00.79, and Sophie Edington, on 1:01.16.

Championship results:

Official results in full

Championship coverage archive 

Day 1

Best Newspaper Coverage From Down Under:

The Australian

New Kid On Blocks Flies: Kukla same age as Thorpe at 1997 trials

Adelaide Now 

4x100m free in dire straits

Sydney Morning Herald

Teen takes down world champ

The Telegraph

Australia's new Wunderkind

Bloggers Lane

Your chance to ask Geoff Huegill a question