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Swimming preview - 1 August

01 August 2002

Ian Thorpe, Australia’s giant of the pool, has dominated the back pages since plunging into the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday. But events here on the third day of swimming look likely to be dominated by the courage of Natalie Du Toit (RSA).

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe: dominated events from the start

Du Toit, aged 18, is a veteran of the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games four years ago. She seems certain to create much more of a stir in Manchester, where she swims in Thursday morning’s 800 metres freestyle heats just a few hours after she won gold in the final of the Elite Athletes with a Disability (EAD) 50m freestyle.

Du Toit had her leg amputated after a road traffic accident in early 2001, but has shown supreme determination to battle back into her beloved sport, finishing second in the South African trials at 800m freestyle. Her dream is to compete at the Athens Olympics in 2004. “It is everything I believe in,” she says.

Thorpe, in his pursuit of seven gold medals, is never long out of the water here, and on Thursday he takes on the best sprinters in the Commonwealth in the blue riband event, the 100m freestyle. He is also expected to swim the anchor leg of Australia’s 4x200m freestyle relay team in the evening, when another world record seems possible.

Thursday evening will see nine gold medals decided in the pool, including the Men’s 200m backstroke, where Matt Welsh (AUS), the Commonwealth record-holder, is the favourite, plus the women’s 100m freestyle, the men’s EAD 50m freestyle, and the men’s 50m butterfly final.

Welsh is bidding for four gold medals at the Games, including the 100m Backstroke, in which he is the world champion. There, he is expected to be matched against Thorpe in that final on Saturday. Something has to give.

The women’s 200m breaststroke final on Thursday night looks set to be a southern hemisphere battle between Liesel Jones, the Australian champion who tops the Commonwealth rankings, and her South African counterpart, Sarah Poewe.

Info News Service/sd/sdb

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