Connect with Us:  

Telstra 2000 Grand Prix - Day 2

Aug 28, 2000  - Paul Quinlan

Popov and Aussies Play It Cool

World record holders Ian Thorpe and Susie O'Neill and brilliant Victorian backstroker Matt Welsh produced the stand-out performances on day two of the third Telstra Grand Prix meet at the Melbourne Sports And Aquatic Centre today.

Thorpe, who decided against swimming the 400 metres yesterday, stamped his authority in the 200 metres freestyle - the event which has seen him assert his dominance over the past 12 months - with a comfortable victory in a time of 1:48.90 from British champion Paul Palmer (1:50.46) and Australian team mate Grant Hackett (1:50.51).

The 17-year-old Sydneysider said it was great to know he could swim a time like that while he was still in heavy training.

"With three weeks to go, things are looking good," said Thorpe, who admitted he was getting excited about the thought of contesting his first Olympics.

"I have done some great sets in training and I'm ready to swim well. I want to enjoy myself leading into the biggest event I've swum in and although it is the Olympic Games I will be treating it like any other meet."

The trio will clash again in three weeks time on days two and three of the Sydney Olympic Games, which begin on September 16.

O'Neill, who admitted to feeling a little sluggish on day one and in this morning's heats, looked like her old self, clocking a time of 2:08.58 to record a comfortable win in the 200 metres butterfly, swimming for the first time in two years from lane one.

She was really nervous and lacking motivation over the weekend's competition but the thought of losing in her pet event for the first time in six years, spurred her on.

"I actually hurt over the final 25 metres metres and hopefully I'll feel much better when the Olympics come around," said O'Neill.

"I did have some motivation problems and I have probably been too relaxed. After that swim I am excited and ready to race hard again in Sydney."

This will be O'Neill's third Olympic campaign, which started with a bronze medal in the 200m butterfly in Barcelona in 1992 and saw her win gold in that event in 1996 in Atlanta.

Welsh, who clocked a world class time to win the 100 metres last night, swam his second fastest time ever to win the 200 metres in 1:59.54.

The 23-year-old Victorian is in the best shape of his life as he prepares for his first Olympics and is ready for a showdown with the USA's world record holder Lenny Krayzelburg.

Russia's Alex Popov showed he was ready for his third Olympic gold medal tilt with a comfortable win the 50 metres freestyle in 22.34, over Australian record holder Brett Hawke (22.93) and Algeria's Salim Iles (22.99).

In the first event of the night, 18-year-old Olympic rookie Elka Graham put her hand up to challenge for a place on bthe Australian 4x100 metres freestyle relay team, which a close-fought win over South African Helene Muller and Great Britain's seasoned campaiger Karen Pickering in the 100 metres freestyle.

Graham, who hails from Manly on Sydney's northern beaches, clocked a personal best time of 56.35, with Muller second in 56.37 and Pickering (56.69). It followed Graham's 200 metres freestyle win last night.

The often talkative Graham rushed off to have her blood lactate taken, saying: "I can't stay too long and talk tonight...because my coach said I talked too much last night.

But she did manage to say: I'm stoked, it was a solid swim and it has helped build my confidence leading into the Olympics as I know there is still room for improvement over the next few weeks.?

In the mens 100 metres breaststroke, Australia's Ryan Mitchell finished second to Great Britain's Darren Mew with Mitchell admitting he wants to throw his hat into the 4x100 metres medley relay selection ring.

Mew won in a time of 1:02.60, from Mitchell (1:02.83) and Australia's only individual entrant in this event for the Olympics, Phil Rogers third (1:03.90).

The womens 400 metres freestyle was a stroke-for-stroke affair, right down to the final touch, which saw Australian team mates Sarah-Jane D'Arcy and Kasey Giteau dead-heat in a time of 4:15.44.

Other winners were, Australians Geoff Huegill in the 100 metres butterfly (53.48); Jennifer Reilly in the 400m IM (4:46.73); Giaan Rooney in the 100m backstroke (1:02.49); Grant McGregor in the 200 IM (2:02.33); Leisel Jones, the 200 metres breaststroke in 2:27.33 and Stephen Penfold in the 1500m freestyle (15:35.28).