After a little respite from the Aussie anthem on Day 3, it was back to a feeding frenzy for Talbot's team as they swallowed 10 out of a possible 12 individual medals, adding the men's relay for a sweep of all golds.
The stars of the show were Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, their tussle providing one of the greatest 400 freestyle races ever. So splendid were their performances that the defeat of Olympic champion Danyon Loader, from New Zealand, seemed secondary as they joined teammate Kieren Perkins as the only men to have swum inside 3:45. Thorpe's 3:44.35 missed Perkins's world record by just 0.55 seconds. Hackett was just a touch behind in 3:44.88.
If their arrival into such hallowed waters was glorious, the journey there was breathtaking. Hackett took the race out hard in lane 4 but his every stroke was tracked by Thorpe, who watched his rival across the ropes from lane 2, and teammate Daniel Kowalski, in lane 1. By the half-way point, the three were a bodylength ahead of the pack, turning just outside world record pace.
As with Perkins in Rome in 1994, Thorpe and Hackett refused to drop the pace and the gap to Kowalski and the rest grew ever wider. Indeed, the Australians completed the second 200 metres of the race faster than all except Kowalski had swum in the first 200 metres. Down the fifth of eight lengths, Thorpe changed gear, his size 16 feet driving the wash from his thunderous kick fountain-like into the air, the propulsion producing a critical 0.4-second advantage by the next turn, and one that he would never relinquish. Kowalski finished third in 3:48.91, holding off a late challenge from Loader and producing another 1-2-3 finish for Australia.
The race splits were Thorpe 54.24 1:51.46 2:48.31 3:44.35 Hackett 54.11 1:51.58 2:48.72 3:44.88 Kowalski 54.50 1:52.00 2:50.11 3:48.91 Loader 55.52 1:53.91 2:52.67 3:49.11 The World record splits Perkins 53.96 1:51.11 2:48.15 3:43.80
Thorpe's coach Doug Frost enjoyed a triple celebration, his "youngster" also playing a role in the winning 4 x 100 freestyle relay to increase his gold medal haul to four, while Sydney clubmate Simon Cowley added the 200 breaststroke title to his 100-metre title on Saturday. Crowley's battle with compatriot Ryan Mitchell was settled by 0.07 seconds, in 2:13.13 compared to Mitchell's 2:13.20.