The Australians started the finals off with an exciting one-two finish in the men's 800 freestyle. Although world record-holder Kieren Perkins had intimated coming into the meet that he was prepared to swim badly, he was not about to let the competition off easy. His usual 100% was not enough to win this time, but he certainly gave his teammate Daniel Kowalski a tough race. The two Aussies were stroke for stroke the whole way, with Kowalski winning at the touch in 7:50.28. "I was surprised," he said. "I didn't think I'd swim that quick."
Perkins was a close second in 7:50.80. "It's good," he said, "It's only 4 seconds off my best and that's a lot better than I had expected to go. It was a very tough race. Daniel's always got a very tough finish and I know if I'm not at least a half a bodylength ahead of him with a 100 to go, I'm going to be in a bit of trouble and he proved it tonight."
Finishing in third place Carlton Bruner of the USA with 8:01.63. Canada's Liam Weseloh was 7th in 8:16.46.
The women's 200 freestyle was slower than expected as favourite Claudia Poll of Costa Rica was suffering from bronchitis. Very obviously in pain after the morning heats, she went into the final in fourth place with a 2:01.75.
In the evening, Suzu Chiba of Japan took the gold medal in 2:00.00. Cristina Teuscher of the USA was second in 2:00.38. Poll managed a bronze, having given the others a close race nevertheless with her 2:00.46, and well off her personal best of 1:57.61 posted last year in Rome. "I'm pretty happy with the time because I was supposed to go back (home) on Tuesday. They took me to hospital and my coach said,'You're going home!' and I cried, so they let me stay."
Canadians in the race were Shannon Shakespeare in 7th (2:02.21) and Joanne Malar in 8th (2:02.64).
Daniel Kowalski didn't have much time between races. He had barely warmed down from the 800 when he was back on the blocks for the 200 freestyle, and another tough race. Danyon Loader of New Zealand was that much fresher and brought it home in 1:48.72 to win the gold. "I'm pleased with the effort," he said, "I always go in there to try to swim my best."
Danyon Loader of New Zealand brings it home in the final strokes of the 200m.
For larger 54k photo of Danyon Loader click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Kowalski was a strong second, touching in 1:49.14. "I felt real tired after the 800 freestyle, but it may have actually worked to my advantage," he said. "I think it took the pressure off me because I had already swum in a final. I was very laid back." Third place went to Chad Carvin of the USA in 1:49.38. Owen von Richter of Canada was 8th with a time of 1:52.78.
Japan was on a roll as Noriko Inada swam to Japan's second gold medal of the evening in the 100 backstroke. Inada set a Japanese national record with her time of 1:02.02. "I'm very glad that I could win," she said.
Nicole Stevenson of Australia proved once again that she's an outside lane swimmer; she took the silver from lane 1 in a time of 1:02.17. Stevenson has a Commonwealth victory - also from lane 1-to her credit. The bronze medal went to Mai Nakamura, also of Japan, who touched in 1:02.22.
Canada's Julie Howard broke her own national record (set two weeks earlier in Winnipeg) in the heats with a time of 1:03.16. She finished 8th in the final with a 1:03.85.
Noriko Inada of Japan, upset winner of the 100 back in Japanese record time.
For larger 54k photo of Noriko Inada click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Things were looking slim for the Americans. In four races not a single victory for the Stars and Stripes. The men's 100 backstroke came not a moment too soon, and spectators at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Centre finally heard the strains of the American anthem. World record-holder Jeff Rouse took it out in 26.74, and won his fourth consecutive Pan Pac title in this event with a conservative 54.99. He was followed by his teammate Tripp Schwenk who posted a personal best of 55.18, looking promising for the 200.
Rouse commented, "I would have liked to be a little faster, but it was a good race. I was out pretty fast. My main goal was to have good first 50. I could see Tripp coming up a little on my right so I just did my best to hold him off."
Jeff Rouse, USA, fastest in the 100m backstroke.
For larger 54k photo of Jeff Rouse click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
The disqualification of third-placed Rodolfo Falcon of Cuba (for swimming too long under water) bumped Canadian Mark Versfeld (56.08) onto the medal podium. Versfeld's bronze was Canada's first medal at the Championships. "I was quite surprised (to win a medal)," he said, "and it feels fantastic. It was the best result of my career so far. Winning at Nationals and then doing this well here is a real confidence builder."
It was a night of Aussie triumph, and the highlight was definitely Susan O'Neill's gutsy swim in the 200 butterfly. With a split of 1:00.36 at the 100, O'Neill was well ahead of the legendary Mary T. Meagher's world record pace (1:01.41). She was still on track at the 150 mark and the crowd cheered her to the finish, but she came just shy of the oldest standing women's record to touch in 2:07.29, establishing a new Pan Pacific record, and an Australian national record to boot. "It's good to improve," she said afterward. "I've got it there for three laps. I just need to get the last lap down. I now feel that it (the world record) is reachable."
Susan O'Neill, Australia, won the 200m fly, just missing the world record.
For larger 62k photo of Susan O'Neill click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Less satisfied with her performance was silver medalist Mika Haruna of Japan, who clocked 2:10.88. The bronze went to Whitney Phelps of the USA with a time of 2:11.25. Veteran Michelle Griglione, a medalist at the Pan Pacs in 1985, was third American in the morning heats and therefore out of the final.
Canada's Andrea Schwartz, who finished 5th in 2:15.24, admitted to being slightly overwhelmed by her first big international competition. "It kind of blows you away," she said. The Olympic pool, the huge crowd, the competition. Chalk it all up to experience, however, and it will no doubt prove helpful next year when the hype and pressure will be multiplied tenfold.
The other Canadian finalist was Jessica Deglau, who finished 7th in 2:15.64.
It was a bummer for the Americans once again as they had to face a final without their star player. Having lost the 200 fly a week earlier at the US Nationals, ex-world record-holder Melvin Stewart was obviously not in the running. In the morning heats in Atlanta, Stewart posted the fifth fastest time (2:00.74) but was third American, and therefore relegated to the B Final, which he scratched.
That left the way clear for the Aussie fury that reigned on Thursday night and Scott Miller took full advantage. After a false start, he posted the second fastest time in the world this year, 1:57.86, to win the gold and establish a new Pan Pac record. "I was a little bit nervous," he said, "I knew Scottie (Goodman) would be swimming pretty fast and I was hurting a lot this morning. I'm really happy."
Scott Miller of Australia won the 200m fly in meet record time.
For larger 54k photo of Scott Miller click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Indeed his teammate Scott Goodman was right behind him, taking the silver in 1:58.65. Goodman had been down on his luck since arriving in the US, having caught the measles during their Flagstaff training camp, and then a gastrointestinal illness. "I took my first 100 pretty easy. If I have to lose, I'd lose to the big fella (Miller). But my goal next year is to come here and win it." Stay tuned.
In third place was Matthew Hooper of the USA with a time of 1:58.83. Eddie Parenti of Canada was 8th in 2:01.89.
The pool in Atlanta seemed made for distance swimming as the crowd witnessed another neck and neck race between Brooke Bennett of the USA and Hayley Lewis of Australia. No one was willing to let up at the 1000 mark, but 15 year-old Bennett took a slight lead at 1300 m. Lewis fought back, and the race looked like a déja vu of her battles with world record-holder Janet Evans. Bennett held on and touched in 16:15.58 to win the gold. A crestfallen Lewis was second in 16:15.73. No doubt about it, 1500 m is a long way to go to lose by less than 2/100 of a second. The bronze medal went to yet another Australian, Stacey Gartrell, who was well back with a time of 16:34.93.