Telstra 2000 Grand Prix - Day 1
Aug 27, 2000 - Paul Quinlan
While the headlines coming into the third Telstra Grand Prix Meet in Melbourne today, centred on Olympic champion Alex Popov and his Australian training partner world champion Michael Klim, it was the lesser lights on the Australian Olympic team who caught the eye, three weeks out from the Games.
Two-times Olympian Ryan Mitchell clocked his second fastest time ever to win the 200 metres breaststroke in 2:13.60; relay swimmer and Olympic rookie Elka Graham also clocked her second-ever fastest time to win the 200 metres freestyle in 2:00.15 and Victorian Matt Welsh looked impressive in his 100 metres backstroke 54.67 - his second fastest time and a time which ranks in the top eight in history.
Popov was all class in winning the 100 metres freestyle in 49.59, from Klim (50.22) and lone Algerian team member Salim Isles third in 50.86.
Later in the evening, Grant Hackett won the 400 metres freestyle in 3:51.14 from a fast finishing Kieren Perkins (3:52.92) with Daniel Kowalski third in 3:54.32.
World record holder and reigning world champion Ian Thorpe elected not to swim his pet event, the race he and Hackett will contest on night one of the Olympic Games.
Thorpe told the media he was not prepared to take any risks in his preparation three weeks out from the Games, prefering to race the 100 metres freestyle earlier in the night, where he finished fifth behind Popov in a solid swim of 51.11.
Mitchell, the lone South Australian based swimmer on the team, looked relaxed and strong over his four-lap journey and is looking forward to his second Games in Sydney, which start on September 16.
"This is the fun time, all the hard work is done and we're getting ready to race, I love it and the time I swam tonight is certainly encouraging," said Mitchell.
Graham, one of the big improvers on the Australian scene this year, won the 200 metres freestyle from Australian team mate Giaan Rooney (2:01.11) with South African Helene Muller third in 2:01.86. Susie O'Neill was fourth in 2:02.63 - a second slower than her morning heat swim.
Welsh, performing in front of his home crowd in Melbourne, gave the 2,500 fans, who packed the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre plenty to cheer about, with a world class time of 54.67.
The 23-year-old, who smashed the Australian record with his 54.14 at the Telstra 2000 Trials in May, won seven gold medals at last week's Victorian State Short Course Championships.
Other winners on the night were: Leisel Jones (1:08.89) who just edged out South African Sarah Poewe (1:08.99) by 0.10 in the 100 metres breaststroke; Matt Dunn (400 metres individual in 4:21.40); Mandy Loots (South Africa) the 100 metres butterfly in 1:00.59; Justin Norris (Australia), the 200m butterfly in 2:00.15; Jennifer Reilly (Australia) 200 individual medley in 2:18.93; Alison Sheppard (Great Britain) the 50m freestyle in 25.90; Rebecca Cooke (Great Britain) the 800 metres freestyle in 8:43.39 and Joanna Fargus (Great Britain) the 200 metres backstroke in 2:13.44.