SYDNEY - The unique Australian meet format, now a regular event on the national swimming calendar for the third year, continued to bamboozle some swimming watchers. Held October 10 at the Sydney Olympic pool, the format of the QANTAS Skins Invitational Meet is in three parts for men's and women's events:
The format may have been double dutch to some, but it was the pair from the Netherlands, Dutch team members Peter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruin, who stood out among the international contingent of athletes flown in by the sponsor QANTAS for the publicity meet.
Van den Hoogenband took the men's 50 freestyle events. Current men's world champion, Bill Pilczuk (USA), was eliminated in the first swim with a high 24 seconds, citing a slow start on his part as the cause. Bill would have to have stood on his block waving the field "Goodbye!" to account for the two second deficit in his normal race pace.
The world's top-rated 50 freestyle sprinter, Inge de Bruin, went on to win that series of 50s convincingly.
Penny Heyns (RSA) was too good in the 50 breaststroke events, outlasting national champion Helen Denman to take the "skin" in this event. Standouts for the Aussies were young backstroker Giaan Rooney, the Commonwealth 100 champion, winning the 50 backstrokes; Geoff Huegill who won the men's 50 butterfly swims from improving comebacker Scott Miller; Matt Dunn, who dominated the mystery IM; and finally Grant Hackett, who showed everyone, including the fastest ever 400 freestylers in world history-Kieren Perkins and Ian Thorpe-how to swim a broken 400. Daniel Kowalski, ever reliable, took the second-place money.
The concept continues to have public support in swimming-conscious Sydney, with good spectator turnouts. The program was televised nationwide in mid-prime time on Saturday night.
Swimmers also support the meet despite a very low prize money level: only $4,500 for the winner down to $500 for fifth place.
Compared to what happens on the tennis court or golf course, swimming's athletes are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to prize money.
Multiple world champion and world record holder in men's 100 butterfly, Michael Klim, was in the commentary box and not the pool, developing what he hopes will be a career for him in sports commentary with his Channel 9 sponsor.
Michael did a fine job as support commentator to Nicole Stevenson. He will continue to perform in the pool when he resumes competition at what Gennadi Touretski predicts will be "a new high level" in 1999.