Published: May 29, 2012 09:31:27 AM Updated: Jul 5, 2012 09:18:24 AM
Australian swimmers have sent a strong warning to their international rivals ahead of this week’s Santa Clara International Grand Prix in the US, picking up a total of 24 individual medals across the three days of competition at the Mel Zajac Jr. International meet in Vancouver over the weekend.
Olympians Stephanie Rice, Bronte Barratt, Hayden Stoeckel and Leisel Jones proved they are all on track with their preparation for London, collecting two gold medals each, while Queensland teenager and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Yolane Kukla managed three wins.
Triple Olympian Jones, on her way to a record fourth Games , blitzed the field in the 100m breaststroke final in a time of 1:07.84. The swim was just 0.20 of a second off her Olympic qualification time set at the EnergyAustralia Swimming Championships in March this year. Jones then stopped the clock at 31.54 for her second gold of the meet in the 50m breaststroke final on Sunday.
Reigning Olympic champion Stephanie Rice cruised through the heats of the women’s 400m IM to win the final in a solid time of 4:39.71, before going on to secure a medley double taking out the 200m IM by more three seconds in 2:12.51.
The women’s 100m butterfly saw 16-year-old Kukla win from local Vancouver swimmer Noemie Thomas. It came down to the touch with Kukla hitting first in 59.02 and Thomas a fraction behind in 59.45. Kukla and Thomas had earlier battled it out in the 50m butterfly final with the Australian again getting the better of her Canadian rival. The Queenslander’s final gold medal of the meet came with a win in the women’s 100m freestyle in a time of 55.48.
Fellow Queenslander Meagen Nay kicked off her international campaign with a win in the women’s 200m backstroke. Nay took the title in 2:09.40, over five seconds ahead of Colombia’s Isabella Arcila in 2:14.83. The 23-year-old also managed to hold on for third in the final of the women’s 400m freestyle with a time of 4:14.42, while her teammate Bronte Barratt swam nearly seven seconds clear of the rest of the field for the win gold in 4:07.47.
Barratt secured her second win in the women’s 200m freestyle, hitting the wall in 1:58.04 ahead of fellow Queenslander Kukla (2:01.42).
The men’s backstroke events had South Australia’s Hayden Stoeckel and Queensland’s Mitchell Larkin in a battle for supremacy.
The 200m backstroke final saw 18-year-old Larkin beat home the Beijing Olympian to take the bragging rights with a time of 1:59.34. But Stoeckel got one back on the youngster in the final of the 50m backstroke with the 26-year-old taking first place in 25.20, nearly a full second ahead of Larkin in 26.19, and then again in the 100m backstroke final in 54.62 with Larkin second in 55.97. Larkin (2:01.73) then redeemed himself with a win in the 200m IM on Sunday night.
Korea’s Taehwan Park was too strong for Ryan Napoleon in the men’s 200m and 100m freestyle finals. Napoleon had to settle for silver and bronze respectively behind Park, while Brent Hayden beat them both to take the 100m freestyle gold.
Meanwhile in Irvine California at the Speedo Grand Challenge, Nick D’Arcy warmed up for the Santa Clara meet winning the men’s 200m butterfly in a meet record time of 1:57.16.
Fellow London Olympic team member Matson Lawson raced for the first time internationally to finish second in the men’s 200m backstroke in 2:01.39, while his training partner and fellow Victorian Josh Beaver won the race in 1:59.31.
The 2012 Santa Clara International Grand Prix will be held from May 31 to June 3 with heats from 0900 local time (0200+1 AEST) and finals from 1700 local time (1000+1 AEST). For more info go to www.usaswimming.org
Australian athletes competing in the meet are as follows:
Queensland: Bronte Barratt*, Braiden Camm, Nick D’Arcy*, Brittany Elmslie*, Ellen Fullerton, Jared Gilliland, Ky Hurst*, Leisel Jones*, Yolane Kukla*, Mitch Larkin*, Ned McKendry*, Kenrick Monk*, Ryan Napoleon*, Meagen Nay*, Kylie Palmer*, Stephanie Rice*, Emily Seebohm*, Jessicah Schipper*, Buster Sykes, Libby Trickett*
Victoria: Ashley Delaney, Sarah Katsoulis, Travis Mahoney
South Australia: Matthew Cowdrey, Hayden Stoeckel*
*Note: Denotes a 2012 London Olympic Team Member
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