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Pellegrini Pacers: Palmer & Barratt, on 1:55.7

Apr 4, 2011  - Craig Lord

Sydney, Australian Championships, day 4 finals and semi-finals:

The gauntlet has been thrown down with a thump and a clatter - solo and relay: Australia's top two 200m free women, Kylie Palmer and Bronte Barratt battled to 1:55 efforts at the helm of six women inside 1:58. Palmer claimed the Australian record on 1:55.73, 0.01sec ahead of Barratt. The top 8 did not include triple Olympic golden girl Stephanie Rice, who opted out of the final.

The only sub-1:56 in the world last year was the 1:55.45 of Olympic and world champion Federica Pellegrini (ITA), making the top two Down Under today the 3rd and 4th 1:56 breakers since a return to textile-only suits, after Camille Muffat's 1:55.95 at French trials last week. The heat is on. 

In other action, Jayden Hadler, 17, claimed the 200m 'fly title 0.03sec ahead of Travis Nederpelt but both missed the Shanghai cut, Brenton Rickard dominated the breaststroke dash, a non-selection event, and Ryan Napoleon stole a march on defending champ Robert Hurley in the 800m free but fell shy of the cut for Shanghai world titles in July.

Race reports

Women's 200m freestyle

Hardly a drop detectable twixt Palmer, 21 and coached by Stephan Widmer in Brisbane, and Barratt, 22 and back in Queensland with Michael Bohl at St Peters Western after a spree with by Tracey Menzies at the AIS, on the way to an Australian record of 1:55.73 for Palmer and a 1:55.74 silver for Barratt. The same 0.01sec split had been seen at the end of the first lap, Palmer first through in 27.65.

The end result left them just shy of the non-textile suited Commonwealth mark of 1:55.54 held by Britain's Joanne Jackson since 2009. Barratt and Rice had jointly held the Australian mark at 1:56.60 since 2008. The bronze medal today went to Jade Neilsen, 19, on 1:57.20. 

"I’m just so happy," Palmer told reporters in Sydney. "In previous Australian championships I’ve only ever won one title and that was in 2008 in the 800m. I’m really happy with how it has all gone and with my preparation leading in, and it has all paid off now. I’ve never been more excited to race before. Moving coaches a year and a half ago has really improved my speed and the little things have really started to work."

If Barratt stepped up a second on the clock, then palmer leapt up from 9th best Australian all-time on 1:57.50 to the top of the tree and the all-time, all suits. In textile, only Pellegrini, Sara Isakovic (SLO), Laure Manaudou (FRA), who held the world mark at 1:55.52 on the eve of the 23-month era of non-textile suits, and Annika Lurz (GER), now retired, have ever gone faster.

The splits of the top two:

  • Palmer:   27.65; 56.85 (29.20); 1:26.18 (29.33); 1:55.73 (29.55)
  • Barratt:  27.66; 56.93 (29.27); 1:26.39 (29.46); 1:55.74 (29.35)

And for the relay that is surely a world-title and Olympic-title hope this year and next, came these efforts beyond the podium placers: Angie Bainbridge, 1:57.36; defending champion Blair Evans, 1:57.59; Alicia Coutts, 1:57.72. A 1:58.15 by Merina Dingjan, a time good enough to have won the nation crown of most nations in the world, was good enough for 7th, the final concluded in 1:59.29 by 800m ace and reserve for Rice, Katie Goldman. The top seven home all swam faster in the final than in the semi, with Goldman 0.04sec out.

Consider this as a measure of quality and depth in the Aussie ranks: the fastest world championship field in history, discounting Rome 2009 at a time of non-textile suits, was this one, at Melbourne 2007: 1:55.52; 1:55.68; 1:56.97; 1:57.09; 1:57.90; 1:58.30; 1:59.28; 2:01.53 (there's often one anomaly at the trail end).

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium plus 1: 1:57.38; 1:57.46; 1:57.69; 1:58.13
  • 2011 podium plus 1: 1:55.73; 1:55.74; 1:57.20; 1:57.36
  • AUS record: 1:55.73 Kylie Palmer 2011

Best AUS podium result at world titles: gold, twice - in 1991 Hayley Lewis (AUS) claimed the crown ahead of Janet Evans (USA) in Perth, among those there to shout for the local favourite that day, Shane Gould, winner of five solo medals at the 1972 Olympic Games, three of them gold (200m, 400m free, 200m medley); in 2001, Giaan Rooney claim the crown in Fukuoka to help Australia win the meet ahead of the US for the first time since world championships began in 1973. 

Men's 200m butterfly

Trials from around the world are throwing up the names bursting through the ranks in time for Olympic year in 2012, and in Sydney today 17-year-old Jayden Hadler, of Chandler, broke the mould with a 1:56.28 victory over Travis Nederpelt, just 0.03sec away. The bronze went Lachlan Staples, on 1:58.98.

The top two missed the cut for Shanghai world titles - 1:56.20 - though the new champion, coached by Stephan Widmer and Dean Boxall in Brisbane, boasts a new best time, his previous mark a 1:57.07 from last year. That progress lifts him from 7th to 4th best Australian ever. The defending champion and Australian record holder Nick D'Arcy missed trials through illness that made for a disrupted season.

The splits tell the tale of a stroke-for stroke-battle:

  • Hadler:      26.21; 55.47 (29.26); 1:25.42 (29.95); 1:56.28 (30.86)
  • Nederpelt: 26.16; 55.59 (29.43); 1:25.59 (30.00); 1:56.31 (30.72)

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 1:54.61; 1:56.23; 1:57.07
  • 2011 podium: 1:56.28; 1:56.31; 1:58.98
  • AUS record all suits: 1:54.46 Nick D'Arcy 2009
  • AUS textile best: 1:54.61 Nick D'Arcy 2010

Best AUS podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 50m breaststroke

Brenton Rickard, coached by Glenn Baker at Southport, retained the crown in a dominant 27.60, second best in the world so far this year behind Giacomo Perez Dortona (FRA), on 27.56.

The silver in Sydney went to the champion's arch-rival Christian Sprenger, on 28.02, the bronze to Jamesw Stacey, on 28.53. The dash is not a selection event for Shanghai world titles but Rickard and Sprenger are already on the team and therefore eligible for the 50m in China come July.

How they measure up

  • 2010 podium: 27.40; 27.93; 28.40
  • 2011 podium: 27.60; 28.02; 28.53
  • AUS record all suits: 26.95 Brenton Rickard 2009
  • AUS textile best: 27.40 Brenton Rickard 2010

Best AUS podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 800m freestyle

Ryan Napoleon, coached by Michael Bohl at St Peters Western, stole a march on defending champion Robert Hurley from the first 100m of the race and never looked back, driving on to a 7:55.20 victory, off a half-way split of 3:54.13. The time left Napoleon shy of the 7:54.20 needed for the Shanghai cut, though the swimmer is already on the team and may then be granted access to secondary swims.

Hurley took silver in 8:00.94, the bronze going to a name for the future, 17-year-old Matthew Levings, coached by Grant Hackett mentor Dennis Cotterell at Miami, on 8:02.74. That effort lifted Levings from 47th on the all-time Aussie list on 8:14.71 to 17th, just shy of the 1976 world mark of world and Olympic medallist Stephen Holland.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 7:55.36; 8:00.94; 8:07.70
  • 2011 podium: 7:55.20; 8:00.94; 8:02.74
  • AUS record: 7:38.65 Grant Hackett 2005

Best AUS podium result at world titles: gold, three times - Ian Thorpe, 2001; Grant Hackett, 2003, 2005


Men's 100m freestyle

Fly dash champion Matt Targett, of Melbourne, led the freestyle sprint crew into the 100m final on a 48.66, ahead of Matthew Abood, of Sydney University, on 48.69, teenagers Jamesw Magnusson and James Roberts next through in 48.71 and 48.74. Olympic silver medallist Eamon Sullivan, on 48.87, now has an idea of what those wishing to topple him are capable of this week. Also through, Kyle Richardson, on 49.17, Cameron Prosser, on 49.25 and Tomasso D'Ortogna, on 49.38. Among those locked out, Kenrick Monk and Nick Ffrost. Ian Thorpe, doubtless watching from his eerie in Switzerland, may well be pleased to note that a return to best form would place him among teammates who have every chance of rivalling the kind of sprint force we have witnessed in France of late. 

Women's 50m backstroke

Grace Loh, of Melbourne, claimed lane 4 for the final in 28.31. Either side of her tomorrow will be Sophie Edington, 28.50, and Belinda Hocking, 28.51, danger including Tay Zimmer, on 28.60 and 15-year-old sprint ace Yolane Kukla, who was seeded in a time over 30sec but today set a best time of 28.69. Also in the nix, Rachel Goh, on 28.71 and 16-year-old Adelaide Hart, on 28.87.

Women's 200m butterfly

Samantha Hamill claimed lane 4 in 2:10.75. Either side of her will be world champion Jessica Schipper, on 2:11.20, and Amy Smith, on 2:11.82, with Stephanie Rice threatening on 2:11.92.

Men's 200m medley

Ken To, 18, swam into lane 4 for the final in 2:00.85. Either side of him in the final tomorrow will be 17-year-old Mitch Larkin, on  2:00.97, and national record holder Leith Brodie, on 2:01.64.