The Olympic swimming drew to a close on Saturday at the end of 8 days of quite astounding competition. The British challenge may have been disappointing, but for swimming as a whole, the meet was tremendous. Picking our highlights was extremely difficult, but here goes…
With so many high quality races, in just about every event, how could one possibly stand out? For me however, the best race of the meet came on the very first day. Australia’s stunning victory in the men’s 4x100m relay sticks in the memory for many reasons; a world record on the lead off, fantastically close racing throughout and an absolutely unbelievable finale, with Ian Thorpe overhauling eventual 50m free champion Gary Hall Jr in the last 2 metres. The race had everything. Unbelievable.
15 world records means that this, again, could have been in any of those races, but one stands out ahead of all the others. Ian Thorpe’s relay swim, or his 400m world record, any of Inge de Bruijn’s world records, Lenny Krayzelburgs domination in the backstroke all stood out, but there could, for me only be one winner. Pieter van den Hoogenband’s sub 48 second swim for the 100m free was, in my opinion, the outstanding swim of the meet, better even than his victory and world record in the 200m. Fantastic.
Again so many contenders, but one swimmer was clearly head and shoulders above her competitors. 3 gold medals and 3 world records for Inge de Bruijn, for my money the outstanding swimmer on show.
Unfortunately this has to be the British performance. The issue is not that we didn’t win any medals, but the fact that so many of our swimmers swam slower than they did in the trials or than their PB’s. I’m not going to try and analyse it here, but we have to remember that it wasn’t all bad – there were 10 British Records and good experience gained by all. Hopefully we can move forward from here and achieve what we are capable of in the future.
Thorpe vs van Den Hoogenband? van Den Hoogenband vs Popov vs Klim? Thompson vs De Bruijn? all titanic struggles, but the battle that caught the imagination was Perkins and Hackett battling for the 1500m crown. After a disappointing week Hackett showed he is the man for the big occasion to take Perkins’ title.
Loads of surprises, Fiorevanti’s first ever double in the breastroke, Ervin and Hall winning the 50m free, to name but two. But the real shock, particulalry for the Australian public was Froelander’s victory over Klim and Huegill. A tremendous display of guts saw him take the title almost in the last metre.
Unfortunately there weren’t many competitors here, but for me the best British performance was, leaving relays aside, Georgina Lee’s British record in the 200m fly, just a few tenths faster would have seen her into the final. A close second was Paul Palmers new 200m mark, becoming the first British man inside 1:48, made all the more impressive in the context of his other under par performances.
So a fantastic week of high quality swimming, roll on Athens 2004!