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Huegill Faster Than Ever For 3rd Crown

Oct 8, 2010  - Craig Lord

Commonwealth Games, Delhi, day 5 finals:

Men's 100m butterfly

Geoff Huegill - Skippy to his mates - is now truly a comeback king: champion in 1998, 2002 and now 2010, and faster than ever.

The Australian showed the experience of those years by sitting on Kenyan Jason Dunford's shoulder on the way out - the African on 24.02, the Aussie on 24.18 - before driving off the wall like a Mad Max. Head and shoulders ahead emerging into his stroke, he struck for home and the title in 51.68. In 1998, he won in 52.81. In 2002 it was 52.36. A man who shed 45kg in weight to get into world-class racing shape, Huegill is a champion once more in his 30s - and second fastest in the world this year behind the way-out-ahead Michael Phelps (USA), on 50.65 in an off season. The 31-year-old now has six Commonwealth golds in his treasury.

The silver was shared by defending champion Ryan Pini (PNG) and Antony James (ENG), in 52.50.

A delighted Huegill said: "Words can't describe how I feel. I've finally put together the perfect race. I knew I was going fast but not that fast. The last time I swam that quickly was 10 years ago. It just goes to show that there is still hope for all the old buggers out there. It's awesome to be back."

Pini felt the pressure as defender but said: "I'm really happy with the second place, there was a lot of pressure at the start of the race. I swam just outside my PB, which was good, and it was an incredible swim by Geoff too."

James was on cloud none: "It's still not sunk in yet and still feels like I'm flying. It was all in slow motion when I finished and it took a few seconds for me to realise where I'd finished." Asked if he knew that he was racing into medal position, he replied: "I couldn't even see Huegill, I just had to dig in and focus on my own race."

With a 31-year-old at the helm, James noted the nature of timeframes: "It's been a tough long season for me and it's all about experience. I'm only 20 years old and I'm really excited about next season. This is my priority for 2010 but it's all about London 2012. My dream is to race in the Olympics."

The result:

  • Geoff Huegill (AUS) 51.65
  • Antony James (ENG)/Ryan Pini (PNG) 52.50
  • Christopher Wright (AUS) 52.66
  • Jason Dunford (KEN) 52.66
  • Stefan Hirniak (CAN) 53.83
  • Andrew Mayor (SCO) 53.85
  • Shaune Fraser (CAY) 54.03

Dunford was in the fight until the turn but appeared thrown by Huegill's turn and then tightened from 20m out. He told reporters: "I just tightened up, I'm really disappointed. I just didn't have enough to finish and my turn was not good enough." Knowing where weakness lies helps a great deal, and Dunford, 50m champion here, will doubtless have better days.

History in the making:

Top 3 comparisons

  • 2010: 51.68;  52.50 (shared silver)
  • 2006: 52.64; 52.70; 52.73
  • 2002: 52.36; 52.80; 53.02

Gold-medal leader board: AUS 6/12 (since 1962)


  • Shiny suit WR:    49.82 Michael Phelps (USA) 2009
  • Textile suit WR:  50.40 Ian Crocker (USA) 2005


Impact on 2010 world rankings:

  • 50.65    Phelps, Michael     USA
  • 51.69    McGill, Tyler       USA
  • 51.70    Korotyshkin, Evgeny    RUS
  • 51.79    Lauterstein, Andrew    AUS
  • 51.82    Verlinden, Joeri    NED
  • 51.94    Fujii, Takuro       JPN
  • 51.98    Kishida, Masayuki    JPN
  • 52.03    Czerniak, Konrad    POL
  • 52.11    Subirats, Albert    VEN
  • 52.21    Phillips, Timothy    USA

Impact on all-time world top 10: 0

From The Archive:

In 1962, Kevin Berry won both Commonwealth butterfly titles up for grabs, including the inaugural 100m crown, and took a third gold in the medley relay. It was just the beginning of a whirlwind career leading to the 1964 Olympic 200m butterfly crown in Tokyo (2:06.6, world record) and medley relay bronze at the same Games. Along the way, he set 12 world records. Berry had a long argument with Carl Robie, the American he confined to silver in Tokyo: the world record changed hands between the two men nine times from 1961 until 1967 and the advent of Mark Spitz. In the lead-up to Tokyo, Berry wiped 1.3sec off Robie’s world record and arrived in Japan as title favourite. At the time he was paying his way by washing dishes at the Angus Steak House in Sydney. He was in the kitchen the day that a lunch reception was held in the restaurant to honour the Olympic team before it left for Japan: he changed into nice clothes, ate his Olympic lunch and then changed back and washed his own dishes. Berry’s 2:08.4 over 220y butterfly in 1963 will remain forever a world record never to be broken, it having survived until January 1, 1969, when FINA rules required all world records to be metric and set in 50m pools. Coached by Don Talbot and later Doc Counsilman, Berry was just 15 when he finished sixth in the 200m butterfly and raced the heats of the medley relay at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. The 200 fly was won by American Mike Troy in a world record of 2:12.8. Months after the race, Berry received a postcard from Troy, suggesting the youngster could one day find himself atop the Olympic dais.

Berry graduated from Indiana University just as Spitz was walking through the door. An Australian press photographer and editor at the Fairfax media group of publications, Berry, from Marrickville, Sydney, ran the media service at the 1991 world championships in Perth and played a part in ensuring the success of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

One of seven children from a devout Catholic family from the Sydney suburb of Marrickville (where his funeral is set to take place next Monday), Berry wrote several sports books, including a biography of Don Talbot with sports journalist Ian Heads. When Berry died in 2007, aged 61, Talbot said of a man he knew as "one tough cookie": "I am very, very saddened at this news, and disappointed I didn't get the chance to say goodbye."