It was an historic first day, with a fantastic world record in the 400 free by Ian Thorpe and the Australian men's 4x100 free relay beating the Americans for the American's first-ever loss in this event.
Grant Hackett (AUS), who set the early pace, led through the 100 in 53.95, with Ryk Neethling (RSA) second in 54.05, two hundredths of a second ahead of Ian Thorpe (AUS). At the 150 mark, Thorpe turned on the jet power and surged to the lead, touching at 200 m in 1:51.03 to Neethling's 1:51.22 and Hackett's 1:51.32. The "Thorpedo" moved ahead as the race progressed through the 300. It was all Thorpe for the gold and the world record in 3:41.83, with Hackett (3:46.02) and Neethling (3:46.31) battling for second.
Thorpe's tactics worked well. Hackett and Neethling took the early lead, which allowed Thorpe to negative split. The new world record-holder's first 200 was 1:51.03 and second 200 was 1:50.80.
"I don't believe this. It's the first time I've gone out there and swum my own race," Thorpe said. "I was able to get the benefit of doing that."
When asked how this compared with winning a world championship, as he did in 1998, Thorpe said: "Almost as good. It's pretty close. It's an amazing feeling becoming world champion at 15 and now to do this in front of my home crowd tonight."
Thorpe's coach Doug Frost was utterly perplexed, saying: "I just can't believe it. What an outstanding swim. I thought it was going to take a world record to win it. I thought it would be a lot closer. It was the best swim in history. Just amazing—he is an amazing athlete. He has big ambitions and goals and he is achieving those goals, which I thought were unreachable."
How the race was split:
Joanne Malar (CAN) was favoured having the fastest time of all competitors at 4:38.46 ahead of Yasuko Tajima (JPN), the only other competitor to have gone under 4:40.00 with a PB of 4:39.45.
Tajima was in the lead after the fly in 1:03.41, increasing her lead by another body length in the backstroke leg (2:13.01).
Malar made her move in the breaststroke, with Maddy Crippen (USA) 3/100ths back. Tajima and Cristina Teuscher (USA) were half a body length behind.
There were four swimmers with a chance of winning the gold as they went in to the final 100 of freestyle. For a time it looked like Teuscher's distance background was going to win the event for her, but Malar was not to be denied and fought back strongly to take the gold in 4:40.23. Tajima took the silver in 4:40.56, ahead of Teuscher in 4:41.21.
"This has been a harder double than I thought it would be," a tired Malar said after competing in the Pan Ams in Winnipeg during the first week of August and then making the long trip to Australia. "I don't feel like I'm 100-per-cent rested and tapered right now. However, if I can go a 4:40 feeling pretty tired, that's a good sign. You have to be tough."
It was Malar's first career win at Pan Pacs. "I was seriously nervous before the final. It was important for me to swim really well in this pool. No matter what, I always take the 400 IM very seriously.
"I've been playing around with my splitting and it's just awesome that I can control and know what I want to look for. I've been trying to swim more controlled and it paid off. I wanted to come on in the last 200 really strong."
The Australian team with Sarah Ryan leading got away to a great start, edging the USA's Liesl Kolbisen 56.10 to 56.26. The Canadians were third with a 56.74 from Jessica Deglau. The Americans and Australians made a great race of it with Canada always close at hand and a threat particularly to Australia for the silver medal. With the final leg to be swum, the USA touched in 2:47.59, half-a-second ahead of Australia (2:48.03) and Canada (2:48.78). Jenny Thompson anchored the Americans with a 54.27 to put the race away with a 3:41.86. Susie O'Neill (AUS) didn't quite match that, but her 54.66 was a personal best and Australia's 3:42.69 just missed the national record of 3:42.61.
Canada, in third with 3:44.50, set a national record.
The American women have dominated this event and it was Jenny Thompson's sixth consecutive gold in this relay.
The Australians made it an historic occasion, downing the Americans in the 4x100 free relay for the first time ever. No other nation has ever toppled the Americans in this relay.
Michael Klim (AUS) led off in 48.73, which gave the Australians over a body-length lead and was a national record. The Americans moved up with a 48.93 leg from Josh Davis, but it was not enough to catch the Aussies, whose second swimmer, Jeff English, split 49.60. Another fast leg from Neil Walker (48.90) moved the Americans closer as Chris Fydler's 49.20 maintained a slight advantage for the Australians. Ian Thorpe assured the win for Australia with his 48.55 anchor, to Jason Lezak's 48.83 for the Americans.
The winning time was 3:16.08, the third fastest ever-only two USA teams have been faster. The USA placed second with 3:16.81. Canada was third in 3:20.73, setting a new national record.
"We're looking for every win you can get," Australian head coach Don Talbot said. "While you can recognize the world record as being great, to win the relay and topple the Americans is better."
He was full of praise for Thorpe, who "could be the greatest Australian swimmer we've ever had-maybe the greatest the world has ever seen." Talbot raved about the 16-year-old's Ferrari-style acceleration and he rated that 400 free among the best races he had ever witnessed.
Fastest semi-finals winners were Jenny Thompson (USA) in the 100 fly with 58.57, and Simon Cowley (AUS) with 1:01.60 in the men's 100 breaststroke.