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Swimming preview - 31 July

31 July 2002

Australia’s Matt Welsh claimed he was suffering from an acute case of nerves before making his Commonwealth Games debut in the men’s 50 metre backstroke heats on Tuesday.

Matt Welsh

Matt Welsh - plenty left in the tank

But the tension didn’t show in his performance as Welsh, double Olympic silver medallist two years ago in the 100m backstroke and 4x100m medley, put down a marker ahead of Wednesday’s final.

Ominously, Welsh also warned his rivals that there is plenty left in the tank and he will be the man to beat in the final, the first of four medal challenges on the Games agenda for the 25-year-old from Melbourne.

Petria Thomas and Ian Thorpe are no strangers to that sort of multi-medal charge and no one will be taking bets against the Australian duo adding to their massive worldwide medal collection on Wednesday.

Thorpe has another high-profile date with rival Grant Hackett in the heats and finals of the men’s 200m freestyle. Thorpe, the current Commonwealth champion, holds the world record at this distance with a time of 1.44.06, compared with Hackett’s 1.46.11, the second best time set by an Australian.

And Thomas, the triple world champion in the women’s 100m and 200m butterfly and 4x100m relay, who is competing in eight events here, will be the overwhelming favourite for the 50m butterfly before she embarks on her 100m freestyle campaign in the morning heats and evening final.

England’s Zoe Baker was another swimmer who looked on top of her form when she set the early pace with a European record of 31.03sec in the heats of the women’s 50m breaststroke and she was confident there would be more to come. She will be assured of massive home support.

Wednesday’s programme will also feature the first swimming final for Elite Athletes with a Disability in the fully integrated championships, the women’s 50m freestyle.

Medals for EAD events will be included in the main programme and South Africa’s Natalie Du Toit, who will also be competing in the 100m EAD freestyle as well as the women’s 800m freestyle, is the favourite for Wednesday’s race.

The race will also feature Stephanie Dixon who won three gold medals at the 200 Paralympics in Sydney for Canada.

Info News Service/ac/

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