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Swimming preview - 3 August

03 August 2002

It ought to go down as the night of 11 finals, but there will be one event, and one event alone, that is sure to draw the attention of the world to the pool at Manchester 2002 on Saturday.

Ian Thorpe

Thorpe might not have it all his own way tonight

The Men’s 100 metres Backstroke final is expected to pit world champion Matt Welsh against Ian Thorpe.

The Thorpedo could be racing for his sixth title of the Games by Saturday night in his quest for a unique seven gold medals in swimming events at one Commonwealth Games, but his team-mate Welsh is determined, and capable, of halting him.

Thorpe is a newcomer to the backstroke at international level while Welsh has already won the 50m backstroke here, and is more rested for this battle after his controversial disqualification from the 200m backstroke heats on Thursday. When the pair met in the Australian championships in March, Welsh was a comfortable winner with 54.07sec, an Australian record, to Thorpe’s 55.64.

“We’re all here to do our own thing and to get my goals I’m going to have to impinge on other people’s goals,” Welsh warned earlier in the week.

Of the other 10 gold medals up for grabs on what promises to be a great night of swim racing, the Women’s 50m Freestyle offers a chance for a rare Scottish triumph, the Canada-based Alison Sheppard having clocked a Games record 24.68sec in Friday morning’s heats, the fifth fastest of all time.

England’s Sarah Price, after setting three Games records in the 100m backstroke, continued the trend in the 50m backstroke heats on Friday, though Aussie Dyana Calub may push her hard in Saturday’s final. The one-length sprints offer the hosts a further chance of a clean sweep in the Men’s 50m Breaststroke, too, where Darren Mew, James Gibson and 200m gold medal-winner Adam Whitehead head the qualifiers in the heats.

The Women’s 100m Breaststroke looks likely to be a tight tussle, too, with three Australians - Tarnee White, Brooke Hanson and Leisel Jones, the 200m breaststroke champion - being challenged by South Africa’s Sarah Poewe and Rhiannon Leier of Canada, the fastest swimmer in Friday morning’s heats.

The night will be rounded off with the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle relay which promises to be a real edge-of-the-seat thriller, rematching England, winners of Thursday night’s 4x200m, against Australia, who will be out for instant revenge.

Info News Service/sd/pjt

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