Stevens earns 400m freestyle berth - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stevens earns 400m freestyle berth

By Tom Wald 30/01/2006 09:07:30 PM Comments (0)

Craig Stevens has earned himself another 400m freestyle berth on the Australian team and this time he intends keeping it.

The Sydneysider famously stepped aside to let friend Ian Thorpe have his 400m spot for the Athens Olympics after the Thorpedo dramatically false started at the selection trials.

However there is no pressure on the 25-year-old to make way this time after he won at the Commonwealth Games trials in three minutes and 50.33 seconds - more than ten seconds outside Thorpe's world mark.

With Thorpe skipping the event to focus on his sprint program and Grant Hackett missing the Commonwealth Games following shoulder surgery, the race was lacking star power.

With a nervous Thorpe watching on in the stands, Stevens moved out of the enormous shadows Thorpe and Hackett have cast over the eight-lap event.

At least for a little while.

The added absence of Nic Sprenger due to illness put the pressure firmly on Stevens' shoulders and while the time wasn't flash, he was delighted.

"It has never happened to me before, I have always been in someone else's shadow and it was great swimming tonight without Ian's wash," Stevens said.

"Grant's shoulder injury and Nic Sprenger pulling out and I guess the added pressure that the title was there for the taking, I tried not ... to think about it too much but it was just a great opportunity that came my way."

Australia has won the 400m title at every Commonwealth Games since 1982 and Stevens admitted he would have to drop his time to extend the streak.

"I have to swim quicker, (South African) Ryk Neethling might swim it, and there is (Welshman) David Davies and a couple of English guys who can swim a good 400," he said.

"I am just going to spend the next few weeks training really hard and rest up for a couple of weeks."

An emotional Brooke Hanson (2:13.09) put a horror 2005, in which she threatened to quit the sport, behind her by triumphing in the 200m individual medley.

"I just thought I could not continue, so much happened in my life, getting sick so many times and things happened with (coach) Mark (Thompson). I was really ready to give it all up," said the Olympic silver medallist.

Thompson was charged with sex offences last October and that rocked the swimmer with the beaming smile following her flat performances at last year's Montreal world championships.

Jade Edmistone lowered her world record 50m breaststroke mark to 30.31s in the morning and just missed out on bettering that mark in the evening with a time of 30.37.

Pocket rocket Linda MacKenzie claimed her third straight national title in the 200m freestyle by storming over the top of Commonwealth record holder Libby Lenton.

MacKenzie (1:58.49) touched out Commonwealth record holder Lenton (1:58.53) by just 0.04 of a second.

Sprint star Lenton, who has only recently started dipping her toe into the four-lap event, led for almost the entire race before the AIS-based MacKenzie powered home in the final lap.

However it was a tough night for the returning Elka Graham (2:00.30) who finished last in the final.

In the men's 200m butterfly, Travis Nederpelt (1:56.84) trumped Josh Krogh.

Earlier sprint queen Jodie Henry made a sluggish start by missing out on the 200m freestyle final and declaring she wasn't fit enough for the four-lap event.

Meanwhile, Henry's former training partner Alice Mills opted out of the 200m individual medley because of a niggling knee injury.

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