Australia’s Ian Thorpe has advanced, at least one small step, closer to his goal of making the 2012 London Olympic Team in the 200 free.
Though Thorpe has said that his goal was to make the 4×100 free relay, many have speculated recently that it was in fact this 200, and the 4×200 free relay, where his best opportunity for Olympic qualification lied.
Thorpe, swimming out of the 7th of 9 heats, tied for 2nd in his race in 1:49.16 with 400 meter champion David McKeon. The heat was won by Ryan Napoleon in 1:48.27. This is a far-cry better than we’ve seen from him yet in his comeback, which gives him some serious relay hopes. Thorpe, perhaps showing his relay focus, took this race out two seconds ahead of his field (giving the crowd in Adelaide quite a thrill), with a 51.78 opening split. He held it together pretty well, but not well enough.
Here’s a video of Thorpe’s race, via the Sydney Morning Herald, that shows he clearly shuts it down on the final 5 or 6 strokes, finishing with his face fully out of the water. That could be from exhaustion, but it looks to me as though he had some juice left in the tank. A 1:48, or even 1:47, is within reach for him.
The Thorpedo takes a tie for the 5th-seed overall into the semi-finals, behind Napoleon as the top seed.
400 IM Champion (and new National Record holder) Thomas Fraser-Holmes currently sits on the 8th-line, which would be the cutoff to advance from the evening semi-finals to Saturday’s final. He swam a 1:49.22 in prelims, which demonstrates how fragile Thorpe’s standing is (only .06 behind), and Fraser-Holmes should be faster in the later rounds.
Thorpe’s was the big swim on the day, but it was not the only impressive mark. Just before that men’s 200 free prelims, Alsbury’s Belinda Hocking took the top seed in the women’s 100 back with a 59.89. That stands as the 2nd-best time in the world this year. She was the only swimmer who really attacked this race in the prelim – Emily Seebohm, the favorite in finals, swam only a 1:00.90, but even that was good enough for the 2nd seed.
In the men’s version of the 100 back, which is the weakest of their specialties (now that Fraser-Holmes is an elite IM’er), was topped by Benjamin Treffers in 54.59. That was a clear coast, and still outside of the Olympic automatic qualifying time, but there was no reason to exert much effort. The 2nd-fastest swimmer was 200 specialist Josh Beaver in 55.46.
In the women’s 400 prelim (for which only the top 8 qualify, with no semi’s) there was a few tough-luck misses in qualifying thanks to young swimmers stepping up big. 16-year old Leah Neale put out a full-effort and qualified 4th for the final, and Amy Levings did the same (with a four-second personal best) to sneak in as the 8th seedin 4:13.45. That left big-name swimmers Jade Neilsen, Mikkayla Sheridan, and Jessica Ashwood on the outside looking in.
One swimmer who did final in this 400 free was Blair Evans as the 7th-seed. It looks like she’s at least going after the 400 free qualifying (a year ago it was her best race), but if this swim is an indicator, she’s now truly an IM’er. We’ll find out in finals if it’s time for her to totally cut-the-chord on the freestyle races.
In the women’s 100 breaststroke, all of the favorites were safely through. Leiston Pickett took the top seed in 1:07.77, Sarah Katsoulis was 2nd in 1:08.12, and Leisel Jones was 3rd in 1:08.33. Pickett and Katsoulis took the race out hard and then backed off, whereas Jones swam the race more on the second length. Something to watch in the finals.
Stephanie Rice didn’t race today, but she did show up at the pool with tape on her ailing right shoulder. She said that it was pretty sore after her 400 IM win on Wednesday, and with qualification secured, we might end up seeing her scratch an event at some point in this meet.