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Aussie men to step up in pool: Thompson

By Sam Lienert 15/03/2007 07:05:28 PM Comments (0)

A wave of world-beating Australian female swimmers have emerged in recent years, but head coach Alan Thompson says it's the men's turn.

The Australian women's contingent heads into this month's world championships in Melbourne looking strong, led by stars Leisel Jones, Libby Lenton and Jodie Henry.

But the recent retirement of Ian Thorpe, combined with uncertainty over how Grant Hackett's changed circumstances will affect his performance, have caused questions to be asked over the depth in the men's ranks.

However, Thompson believes some youngsters will step out of the shadows over the coming fortnight.

"I think by the end of this meet there'll be a couple of guys that are better known," Thompson said.

"It just sort of reminds me of a bit of reversal of what we had around 2000, it's a bit of a shift.

"You could see the women moving forward in 2001 and the men were very strong.

"At the moment (the men) are not quite there yet, but between 2007 and 2008, I think a few more will step up this year and we'll see a few more again next year."

Among those to watch, Thompson earmarked 23-year-old breaststroker Brenton Rickard and 21-year-old freestyler Eamon Sullivan.

"They're probably the two guys who have made big leaps forward in the past 12 months," he said.

Sullivan broke the Australian 50m freestyle record at last December's Australian championships, with his 22.00 seconds the world's fifth-fastest time of the year.

Rickard notched the world's second-fastest 100m breaststroke time of 2006, behind American Brendan Hansen.

Thompson said 200m freestylers Patrick Murphy and Kenrick Monk, sprinter Ashley Callus, medley swimmer Leith Brodie and butterfly swimmers Andrew Lauterstein and Nick D'Arcy were others showing promise.

He was hopeful some of them would use the world championships to make an impression ahead of next year's Beijing Olympics.

"It's an important meet for them to make a mark on the rest of the world and show where they are at this stage," he said.

"There's a lot of ... evidence to suggest that a lot of people convert (good performances) from here to there."

D'Arcy was yet to join the team in Melbourne, after being diagnosed with bronchitis, but Thompson said he was likely to fly down from the Sunshine Coast on Friday and should take his place in the 200m fly.

Meanwhile, Thompson said it was difficult to predict what effect Hackett's recent move to Melbourne and switch of coach from Denis Cotterell to Ian Pope would have on his performance.

"There's no doubt that Grant's preparation has been affected in some way," he said.

"You can't not be affected by changing coach, changing venue and all that sort of stuff."

"But ... whilst he might not have been prepared as well as he would have wanted to, I think that it's not bad and if he's happy, to have an elite athlete who's happy makes a big difference."

Thompson said the 1500m event Hackett has dominated for a decade would be one of many that would be more competitive than ever before at the championships.

"We've never had a situation like the 1500 where there's a possibility of every swimmer in the race going under 15 minutes," he said.

"The 200m free in the women ... there's just a multitude of events where to try to pick a winner would be very difficult."

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