Pre-meet publicity focussed on the young 17-year-old, Grant Hackett, AUS, from Denis Cotterell's club in Miami on Australia's Gold Coast. Grant had won his first 1997 World SC Championship in Gšteborg for 1500 freestyle.
Hackett had two very fine swims, in the 400 free, 3:47.27, and 800 free, 7:50.30. As predicted, the men's 800 free was the swim of the first night, with Grant Hackett, AUS, winning in 7:50.30, a personal best by nine seconds. This time places him third on the World All Time Best list, ahead of the great Russian, Vladimir Salnikov, and headed only by countrymen Kieren Perkins and Daniel Kowalski.
Chad Carvin (7:57.82) and Tyler Painter (8:01.17), both USA, admitted after the race to being put off by the early pace of Hackett's 55.44 100, 1:54.58 200 and 3:53.58 400. They were unable to hold technique and lost staying power in the back half of the race.
When Claudia Poll from Costa Rica hits the pool, traditional powers in the sport can swim for second. The Francisco Rivas-coached athlete showed her back to the opposition all the way, splitting 27.98, 57.57, and 1:27.80 for her winning time of 1:57.48, a new meet record. Her time was faster than Franziska van Almsick's gold-medal time in Atlanta and just 7/10 of a second short of the German's world record.
Chinese sprinter, Jingyi Le, no doubt getting some solid endurance quality training before the Asian Games, swam 2:00.54 for silver, hotly pursued by Joanne Malar, CAN, whose 2:01.12 was a personal best.
No doubt relishing the chance to have only one event on Day 1 of an international meet, 19-year-old Michael Klim got Plan A to work for him at last and swam the final faster that the prelim to win convincingly in 1:47.60. Silver medallist Josh Davis, USA, 1:48.17, was leading Klim through the 50 and 100 turns, but the Australian powered home in the second half to lead where it counts.
A surprise to some observers was the fact that the New Zealand Olympic champion Danyon Loader did not reach the final eight. Ever-reliable Trent Bray, NZL, 1:49.27, filled the breach for the "Land of The Long White Cloud" by claiming the bronze medal.
To show his stamina was not too impaired by the hard 800 free, held two events previous, Grant Hackett, AUS, won the B Final with 1:49.53, fourth fastest for the day.
In the 100 Neil Walker, USA, took it out hard, leading at the 50 with 26.48, ahead of teammate Lenny Krayzelburg, USA, who split 26.73. Both had a full one-second lead over the field. Krayzelburg put the pressure on during the second length finishing first with 54.43. Walker was second in 55.27. Canada's Mark Versfeld took the bronze with a personal best of 55.55.
Lenny Krayzelburg, a Ukrainian-born American, looks like an athlete and swims like an athlete, and is third on the all-time best list in the 100 (54.43), and fourth in the 200 (1:57.87). Krayzelburg was one of the international finds of the meet and will be worth watching in Perth.
There's nothing like a hometown winner. Mai Nakamura, JPN, 18 years of age and a much improved swimmer since 1996, won with 1:01.13. She split 29.63 to lead at the first turn and held off a strong challenge from veteran Lea Loveless-Maurer (1:01.35) of the USA. Catherine Fox, also from the USA, was in third position throughout and finished strongly in 1:01.83.
Barbara Bedford, Olympic silver medallist in Atlanta, won the B Finals in 1:01.76, adding to the list who have found that it's hard to get back up the year after the Games.
Ugur Tanner, USA, won the 200 in 1:57.35, fast enough to rank him seventh on the all time list. He took the early lead, but was challenged by Australian Scott Goodman, who had the lead until the last length when Taner and Tom Malchow, USA, moved ahead, with Goodman in third at the finish. Taner won the event in a meet record time of 1:57.35. Malchow's time was 1:57.71, and Goodman's time was 1:58.34. Popular Japanese flyer Takashi Yamamoto finished strongly in fourth in 1:59.52.
Susan O'Neill, AUS, the Olympic champion ranked first in the world and third on the all time list, raised anticipation of a world record swim. The pressure must have weighed heavily on the swimmer's mind and shoulders. After the race, O'Neill admitted to not being relaxed and was disappointed with her winning time of 2:08.59, still the fastest time of the year. The record will come when it's not expected.
Kristine Quance, USA, who admits to having thoughts of making butterfly her major stroke, finished strongly in 2:09.29 ahead of Misty Hyman, USA (2:11.53). Earlier in the race, Hyman had the lead through the first turn with O'Neill challenging for the lead at the 100, splitting 1:01.09.
Canadian Jessica Deglau, 17, missed the medals, finishing fourth with 2:11.53.
Brooke Bennett, USA, has a goal to be the second swimmer after the great Janet Evans to break 16 minutes for the 1500 free. With little opposition, she missed her goal, winning easily with 16:10.24 and leading an all-USA sweep of the top four spots.
The bronze medal was claimed by Brooke Townsend, AUS, as only two swimmers from a country count towards medals in this timed-final event.