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Thorpe Out; Libby Blocked By Alicia & Jess

Mar 16, 2012  - Craig Lord

Australian Olympic Trials, Adelaide, Day 2 finals: 

Not a great day for the comeback crew: Ian Thorpe says his "fairytale has turned into a nightmare", with a 12th place 200m free finish in semis, while Libby Trickett, despite a fine effort, is the defending 100m 'fly champion no longer.

London 2012 will deliver the sprint butterfly crown to a new champion come what may after the 2008 title winner finished third in Adelaide today. Alicia Coutts and Jessica Schipper took the Olympic berths on 57s.

In the men's 100m breaststroke, Chrsitian Sprenger cracked the minute for the first time in textile, while Brenton Rickard booked the second ticket to London 2012. Kylie Palmer, on 4:03.40, and Bronte Barratt, on 4:05.74, booked Olympic berths in the 400m freestyle.

An Australia record in the bag, one that took her inside the 4:04.16 standard set by Barratt in the heats at Beijing 2008 and inside her own lifetime best of 4:04.29 from Shanghai 2011 trials a year ago, Palmer said: "Since the World Championships we’ve had about a 26-week block and I’ve trained really hard but you can never be sure about you’re going to do. I just had to get my confidence up and I didn’t want it to be as close this year as it was last year, so I am really happy I could pull away once in that last 100 metres because she [Barratt] has a great back end.”

Thorpe's London 2012 plans effectively came to an end today with a 1:49.91 12th place finish in the 200m freestyle semis. No relay place in sight for the 2004 Olympic champion and former world record holder unless he makes the grade over 100m. 

On today's swim, prospects live on the outer edge of possibility. Still in contention at the last turn in the 200m, Thorpe simply did not have what it takes down the last length, the killer splash no longer, or not yet, part of his repertoire this time round. The danger in him over 100m back when he was good for bronze at Athens 2004 was a killer finish. 

"The last 100 was a struggle, I'm not sure why. I'm terribly disappointed with that, I had a really good heat swim and I thought I could swim a lot quicker," Thorpe told reporters in Adelaide. 

"This was slower than what I swam this morning, probably the inexperience of racing in the last 18 months held me up. The fairytale has turned into a nightmare. I'm really grateful for everyone's support, they've been great. Hopefully I'll be faster (in the 100m)."

Asked about his comeback he said: "I'm glad that I have done it. I think it's better to attempt something and fail than to not even attempt it."

Among kinds words for Thorpe came this from Geoff Huegill on Twitter: "Well done Ian, handled yourself like a true champion."

Race Reports

Women's 100m butterfly

Libby Trickett is the defending champion no longer and London 2012 will deliver the 100m butterfly crown to a new champion come what may after a terrific 58.64 comeback effort proved good enough for bronze today in Adelaide. The Olympic berths went to Commonwealth champion Alicia Coutts and Jessica Schipper in 57.59 andy 57.88 respectively. 

Coutts, coached by John Fowlie at the AIS, was out first in 26.84, to 27.09 fort Trickett and 27.19 for Schipper, those three led by Yolane Kukla, on 26.65, and matched by Marieke Guehrer on 27.04. The purer sprinters, so to speak, fell away a touch on the way home as Coutts and Schipper cracked on with a mission to live their dream, former 200m world champion Schipper the sharpest home comer in the race, on 30.69.

Trickett's time confirms that she is in shape to lend valuable firepower to  Australia's 4x100m freestyle relay, with four months of preparation ahead of her assuming she qualifies at these trials. 

Time waits for no woman, however, and the other side of the comeback tale is the making of hay that never ceases while the mice are away. During Trickett's time out, Coutts overcame, came good and rocked at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 with three solo golds.

The times on the clock today reflect the edginess of the moment, the best efforts of Coutts and Schipper in textile 56.94 (2011) and 57.15 (2006) respectively, while Trickett's textile best is the 57.15 in which she claimed the world title in 2007. "I just wanted to go out there and get in the Olympic team," Coutts said. "I was a bit nervous, but it's a massive weight off my shoulders."

Trickett was upbeat, saying: "I'm thrilled, I really had no idea what to expect tonight, but I just let it flow. I was so close, but that's going to give me so much confidence going into the 100m freestyle."

The 27-year-old will race the 10m freestyle next Monday and Tuesday and the 50m freestyle a couple of days later, while Coutts has one of the busiest programmes in town and Schipper has her signature 200m still to gun for.

Olympic Season Takes Shape - 2012 top 5 (two per nation):

  • Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)    56.79
  • Ellen Gandy (GBR)       57.25
  • Francesca Halsall (GBR) 57.56
  • Alicia Coutts (AUS)     57.59
  • Jessica Schipper (AUS)  57.88

World champion Dana Voller (USA) has already swum 58.02 in the midst of training, the 100m 'fly ranks set for serious shake-up yet.

Men's 100m breaststroke

Christian Sprenger held off 2009 world champion and record holder Brenton Rickard to take the crown in 59.91, the first sub-minute effort of the year and the first time under the minute in textile for the champion.

Rickard booked the second Olympic berth in 1:00.13, while a fight for bronze among the next generation - three 20-year-olds in 3rd, 4th and 5th, went to Jeremy Meyer, on 1:00.82, 0.03sec ahead of Nicholas Schafer, Nikolas Pregelj on 1:02.17.

Coached by Simon Cusack, Sprenger, the 2009 world record holder over 200m, produced the only sub 28sec half-way split, on 27.78, to 28.20 for Rickard. The Rome 2009 champion came back in best split of the field, 31.93 but Sprenger's 32.13 was good enough to fend off the challenge, take gold and book the first London 2012 ticket of the race.

"My stroke felt awesome, under 60 was the goal, and it's amazing. I'm absolutely pumped," Sprenger told reporters in Adelaide. "It takes a lot to get to the Olympics, we're strong competitors and we'll take it overseas."

The shiny suit era clouds all measures of worth still - so worth noting that neither Sprenger nor Rickard, world record holder on 58.12, had ever gone below the minute in textile. Sprenger's best was a 1:00.04 from last year, Rickard's best a 1:00.07 from last year.

Olympic Season Takes Shape - 2012 top 5 (two per nation):

  • Christian Sprenger (AUS)   59.91
  • Daniel Sliwinski (GBR)   1:00.09
  • Kosuke Kitajima (JPN)    1:00.13
  • Brenton Rickard (AUS)   1:00.13
  • Daniel Gyurta (HUN)      1:00.43

By April 2008, five men had dipped below the minute, while 28 had done so by the time booster bodysuits were banned on January 1, 2010. Since then, seven men have gone that way.

Women's 400m freestyle

Kylie Palmer, coached by Stephan Widmer, clocked the third best time of Olympic season so far with a 4:03.40 victory over Bronte Barratt, on 4:05.74, both women claiming London 2012 tickets.

Palmer swam at Barratt's shoulder to half-way before making her move with a third 100m split 0.68sec quicker than her only true opponent in the race. A solid lead built with 10m to go, Palmer went from strength to strengthy and produced the only sub 30sec homecoming split of the race, 29.94, for the gold. 

The future took bronze: 14-year-old Remy Fairweather clocked 4:08.63, inside a previous best of 4:10.55 and now 10th best ever Australian. The teenager caught Blair Evans on the last lap and manage to pip greater experience by 0.29sec. 

The splits:

  • Palmer:  59.78; 2:01.28; 3:02.87; 4:03.40 AUS record
  • Barratt: 59.54; 2:01.55; 3:03.82; 4:05.74

Olympic Season Takes Shape - 2012 top 5 (two per nation):

  • Rebecca Adlington (GBR)   4:02.35
  • Camille Muffat (FRA)      4:03.21
  • Kylie Palmer (AUS)        4:03.40
  • Federica Pellegrini (ITA) 4:05.70
  • Bronte Barratt (AUS)      4:05.74

Just outside that list is Allison Schmitt (USA), on 4:05.90 in the midst of winter training on her way to US trials in June as a potential podium placer and crown chaser.

Non-Olympic trials finals: 

In the 50m backstroke, Emily Seebohm clocked 28.03 for the national title after a 27.97 effort in semis yesterday and 0.01sec ahead of Sophie Edington, bronze going to Hayley Baker on 28/87. Seebohm and Edington both set world records four years ago at Australian nationals in 2008 at the onset of the booster bodysuit era that cam to an end on January 1, 2010. Edington holds the Commonwealth record at 27.51, from 2009, and is the best ever in textile from Australia, with a 27.83 effort from 2010. Seebohm and Edington then went on to qualify for the 100m final either side of Belinda Hocking, who scorched a 59.39 semi, just 0.03sec shy of the 2012 world No 1 time so far that Seebohm set last month. Seebohm was next through on 1:00.06, with Sophie Edington on 1:00.64. A cracking final in prospect.

More Semi-finals:

Ian Thorpe's London 2012 plans came to an end today with a 1:49.91 12th place finish in the 200m freestyle. In the first semi, 400m medley winner of day 1, Thomas Fraser-Holmes clocked 1:47.57, with Ned McKendry on 1:48.34, 0.01sec ahead of a matched time for Cameron McEvoy and 400m free winner on day 1 David McKeon, with Jarrod Killey on 1:48.53 and Kyle Richardson on 1:48.65.

In the second semi, Ryan Napoleon led Kenrick Monk 1:47.51 to 1:47.92, with Tommaso D'Orsogna on 1:48.03. Next through came Robert Hurley and Nick Ffrost, on 1:48.30 and 1:48.38, Ian Thorpe on 1:49.91, any hopes of a swim at London 2012 apparently over.

Thorpe, 2004 Olympic champion and former world record holder, clocked 1:49.16 in heats and said: "I’m very happy with the swim. It was a pretty decent time and I’m happy with that time this morning."

The 29-year-old has the 100m to aim for still but looks to be far away from the shape he would need to muscle in on Magnussen and Co.

Leiston Pickett led Olympic champion Leisel Jones through to the final of the 100m breaststroke 1:07.41 to 1:08.44, the closest to them Lorna Tonks, on 1:08.66, and Sara Katsoulis, on 1:08.72. Both Jones and Katsoulis swam faster times in heats, their final efforts likely to be a different pace altogether.

Hayden Stoeckel led the way into the 100m backstroke final on 53.73, with Ashley Delaney, on 54.07, and Ben Treffers, on 54.36, next through.