Lethal Leisel steals the show - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lethal Leisel steals the show

By Janelle Miles and Laine Clark 25/03/2003 05:41:33 AM Comments (0)

Lethal Leisel Jones overshadowed Ian Thorpe at the Australian swimming championships, equalling her day-old national 100m breaststroke record and reigniting speculation the world record is within reach.

The 17-year-old stopped the clock at 1m07.04s for the gold medal, unable to budge her national record set 24 hours earlier in the semi-final.

She powered to her fourth Australian record of the eight-day titles in the 50m on the way through, registering 31.50s but the Olympic silver medallist was still dissatisfied, saying a glide finish had cost her a new 100m record.

"I was going to take another stroke and hesitated. Now that I think about it I was quite annoyed at it. I always bugger up my finishes," the Queenslander said.

"I think I should work on that a little bit more. I don't know what happened."

Nevertheless, Jones was still able to do the seemingly impossible - overshadow Thorpe.

The swimming king won the 200m freestyle in 1:45.35 - more than a second off his world record of 1:44.06 set during the 2001 world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

The time ranks as the eighth fastest time over four laps in history and equals rival Pieter van den Hoogenband's effort to win gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics but Thorpe was clearly disappointed.

"I would have liked to swim a whole lot faster but we don't always get what we want," said the 20-year-old, who split with childhood coach Doug Frost six months ago.

"I wasn't on my game tonight. It's a little frustrating when you have a good preparation and you don't come up to your expectations."

For once, Thorpe has had to take a back seat, with Jones clearly the star of the national titles so far.

The mantle sits uneasily on her shoulders.

"I think Ian Thorpe's going to be the star," she said. "Everyone comes out to see him. He always gets world records. I just get Australian records. I think his feats are a little bigger than mine."

If expectations are any guide, Jones may have to get used to the increased hype.

Her form at the national titles so far has the Australian swimming fraternity rubbing their hands in anticipation for this year's world championships in Barcelona and the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"She's one of our great athletes, one of the few greats we have in the women now that are on deck ready to race for the world championships," said Australian head women's coach Scott Volkers.

"She'll be relied on heavily."

Volkers, the coach of former world recordholder Samantha Riley, believes South African Penny Heyns' world 100m record of 1:06.52 is well within Jones's reach.

"The 1:06 is not far away now and as long as she stays relaxed and does it well, she's going to swim great," Volkers said.

"We have to look for continual improvement in any athlete. If you're at 1:07, 1:06 is the next and 1:05 may not be out of our concept of reality. She's on track to do a great job and you look forward to the results in the future."

Her coach Ken Wood is equally excited about her 200m breaststroke based on her form so far in Sydney, suggesting Chinese swimmer Hui Qi's world mark of 2:22.99 is a possibility.

"It's not if, it's when," he said.

"I think this is going to be the year when she starts to realise that it's possible."

Jones will swim the 200m breaststroke final on Thursday.

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