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Rookies ready to make a splash at the Games

17 July 2002

Australia is preparing to prove it is the best swimming nation in the Commonwealth with the help of some up-and-coming new talent.


Swimming superstar: Grant Hackett

Whilst all the athletes are enjoying the festivities of the Opening Ceremony on 25 July, the Australian swimming team will still be in training. This is because at these Games the swimming follows the track and field events. However, synchronised swimming and diving starts at the beginning of the Games.

National high-performance director, Greg Hodge said "I think in some ways it will benefit us because we won't have to make decisions about who goes to the opening ceremony and who doesn't,"

"We'll be going into the village just two days ahead of competition, and there's less likelihood for athletes to be distracted by things around them. It's going to be a lot simpler, I guess, for those emotional reasons."

The Australian Commonwealth Games Association is confident that its swimmers will come away with the majority of the medals as it did in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

There they managed to take 48 out of a possible 84 medals and with the so many world champions in their team it is not surprising that they are so self-assured. Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Giaan Rooney and Petria Thomas are just some of the top names in their squad.

A pair of little-known freestylers, Jason Cram and Leon Dunne is set to take the places of injured Michael Klim and retired Bill Kirby in the 4 x 200m relay team.

"We expect to be the number one nation of the Commonwealth Games but we are realistic enough to know that Britain, particularly, and some of the South Africans have made significant moves since Kuala Lumpur, and with the introduction of the 50m form-stroke events which were not in Kuala Lumpur, they are not our strong events," Hodge said.

"As a nation we have to do a better job in improving our performance from the trials to the major international meet. That is our focus."

"We've got 11 rookies on the team, and that demonstrates to me that there's 11 people who have jumped on to the team for the first time and they see it as an opportunity.

"What you're looking for is, OK, they'll do well at the Commonwealth Games but actually they move up in world rankings."

"These new kids and even some that have been on teams before, if they can make a move in world rankings off the Commonwealth Games, then the Games will have achieved another expectation for us."

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