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Racing too close to call in pool

19 January 2013

SWIMMING: Saturday night’s finals made a real splash in the record books with five new AYOF records and two dead heats.

The epic race of the night was the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay as an excited crowd were kept hanging to the edge of their seats for all eight laps as Australia Green, Japan and Australia Gold put on their best performances of the week.

Alexander Graham’s spectacular lead off leg broke the AYOF record for the men’s 100m freestyle with his time of 49.46 seconds and set Australia Green up for a great race.

The real highlight, however, was the last 50m. The stands were tense as Australia Green and Australia Gold desperately sprinted towards the wall, as crowds from every country screamed encouragement.

The winner came down to the final stroke, as Jayke Rees from Australia Green 3:21.85 just out-touched Liam Cunneen for Australia Gold (3:22.53). The winning time broke the AYOF record set in 2001.

The women’s 400m freestyle was a real win for Australia, with a tie between Alanna Bowles of Australia Gold and Amelia Gould of Australia Green.

Gould had the lead at the 200m split before Bowles and Japanese competitor Tsuzumi Hasgawa managed to draw level. In the last lap the Australians pushed forward over the final 25 metres to break the 2005 AYOF record (4:13.30) set by Chinese swimmer Jing Zheng with their time of 4:12.67.

“It feels really good,” Gould said. “Especially to share it with another Australian, I couldn’t have asked for anything more, especially after breaking the 200m freestyle record last night.”

The real competition in the men’s 400 freestyle was between Mack Horton (AUS GREEN), Brazilian Luiz Lopes Melo and Yuto Sato of Japan. Unfortunately Lopes Melo fell apart in the last 200m leaving room for Katsuki Hashiguchi of Japan to challenge.

But it was 16-year-old Victorian Horton whose class shone through to take out the gold in 3:54.19 followed by Yuto (3:54.54) and Hashiguchi (3:56.75).

As the girls sped down the pool in the first lap of the women’s 100m butterfly it was hard to tell who was in the lead. Rino Hosoda of Japan along with Jemma Schlicht and Madeline Groves of Australia were bobbing stroke for stroke down the final metres and remarkably again for the second time in the night two swimmers couldn’t be separated. Hosoda and Schlicht were inseparable down to the touch, tying for gold at 59.73 with Groves behind by a hair at 59.79.

The men’s 100m butterfly was another tight race. The strong Japanese squad won another gold with Takeshi Kawamoto (JPN) first to the wall in 53.82 seconds. He broke the long standing record (53.85) set by Corney Swanepoel of New Zealand. A great performance again by Alexander Graham (AUS GREEN), sprinting from 4th to 2nd in the last 50m to tie for silver in 17-year-old with Masato Sakai of Japan (54.05).

The women’s 200m backstroke produced the rebound of the meet so far.

Japan’s Maho Tsujimoto held the lead for the first 100m before falling back into the group allowing Canada’s flagbearer Sydney Pickrem to surge forward and take the win (2:13.02). Mayuo Goto (JPN) came forward in the last 100m to secure a close second (2:13.33) and Hayley Baker of Australia Green glided into third place with a time of 2:14.14.

Considering Pickrem was disqualified for an early start in the 100m backstroke this was quite the comeback.

“That was the first time I’ve been disqualified in a long time,” she said recalling her 100m disappointment. “But I just knew that I had to come back and change things up, make things better. I just wanted to get our flag up there.”

The men’s 200m backstroke was a dominant display with Japan’s Takeshi Kawamoto establishing an early lead and taking home another gold medal. An excellent performance by Mitchell Pratt (AUS GREEN), closing the gap in the last 50m to scrape in for silver (2:04.92). Lachlan McLeish of Australia Gold maintained a solid performance throughout the race and finish a well-deserved third.

The women’s 4x100m relay produced more exciting racing. Australia Gold maintained a visible lead throughout the relay, breaking the 6 year-old record set by China (3:46.42) with their time of 3:46.26. Australia Green hit the wall a second later (3:47.13), followed by Japan (3:48.19) who shocked the crowd with their comeback, in the last leg of the race.

Swimming will continue at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre from 8am Sunday, with men’s and women’s heats for 400m freestyle, 100m butterfly and 200m backstroke.

Hannah Moore

Follow the AYOF on Twitter @AYOF2013 #AYOF2013 #RoadtoRio

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