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September 16, 2000
Pool sizzles as records tumble
The Rediff Team
17-year-old Aussie swimming sensation Ian Thorpe -- the famed 'Thorpedo' -- warmed up for the 400m finals later today, with an Olympic record-breaking swim of 3:44.65 in the heats.
In the process, he clipped 0.35 seconds off the existing record of 3:45, set by Russia's Evgeny Sadovyi in Barcelona in 1992.
Thorpe led the qualifying field, shading second fastest qualifier Massi Rosolino of Italy by one full second -- and then gestured, to the houseful and adoring crowd, that they could expect even better in the final.
Thorpe holds the world record of 3:41.33 in the event, and has indicated in pre-Olympics interviews that he is planning to lower that mark.
Thorpe, though, had an easy time of it in comparison with the women. The 100m butterfly event set the Olympic pool alight, as records were set and broken in minutes.
Jenny Thompson (US), holder of five Olympic golds, clocked 57.66s in her heat, slicing through the 58.62 mark set by China's Qian Hong in Barcelona.
Jenny, though, had barely dried off and changed out of her swimsuit when 'Flying Dutchwoman' Inge de Bruijn sizzled through her own heat in 57.60, clipping 0.02 seconds off Thompson's mark.
The semifinal of the event is scheduled for later in the evening.
Additional reportage by Derek Parr/Reuters:
Ian Thorpe gave Australian fans reason to cheer on Saturday by breaking the Olympic record in the men's 400 metres freestyle heats on the opening day of the eight-day swimming programme at the Sydney Games.
The 17-year-old Australian did not over-exert himself in the morning heats but still produced sufficient pace to swim the eight lengths of the Homewood Bay pool in three minutes 44.65 seconds, inside the 3:45.00 Olympic record set by Russian Yevgeny Sadovy at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
But Britain's Paul Palmer, silver medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Games, failed to make the final, finishing third in his heat and 10th overall in 3:51.06. And Thorpe's Australian teammate Grant Hackett -- 1998 world championship silver medallist behind Thorpe -- cut it fine, taking the eighth and last place for the evening's final in 3:48.91.
Italy's Massimiliano Rosolino posted the second-fastest aggregate time of 3:45.65 in winning his heat -- pretty quick compared with everyone except Thorpe, who toyed with his race and did not bother to wear the full bodysuit he will use in the final.
"It was pretty good. I was pretty happy with that," Thorpe said. "I tried to be as comfortable as I could just so I can get the best out of myself tonight."
Thorpe, who became the youngest men's world champion in 1998 when he won the 400 metres freestyle at the age of 15, was cheered to the echo by flag-waving Australian fans as he came in for his heat.
He was a body-length up on European champion Emiliano Brembilla at the 100-metre mark, then allowed the Italian to draw closer before kicking away at the end of the race.
South Africa's Ryk Neethling was third-fastest overall in 3:48.08, with Brembilla fourth on aggregate in 3:48.41.
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