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Saturday, September 16
U.S. men lose relay for first time

SYDNEY, Australia -- Ian Thorpe powered Australia to a world-record victory in the 400-meter freestyle relay and ended American Olympic domination of the event since it was first held 36 years ago in Tokyo.

Ian Thorpe
The Australian relay team handed the United States its first loss in the 400 freestyle relay.
Thorpe, who earlier had won the 400 individual freestyle, touched in 3 minutes, 13.67 seconds after Michael Klim had led Australia off with a 100-meter world record time.

Klim took Australia out on the first leg in 48.18 seconds to better the 48.21 mark set by Russian Alexander Popov in Monaco on June 18, 1994.

Chris Fydler held off American Neil Walker but the U.S. were gaining and the lead was a mere 0.25 seconds when Ashley Callus, the third Australian swimmer, handed over to Thorpe.

American Gary Hall Jr. burst down the first length of the 50-meter Homebush Bay pool and overtook Thorpe, but the 17-year-old prodigy proved equal to the challenge, clawing back the deficit on the return length to surge through for victory.

"I had a real honor to bring us home, an honor and legacy of Australian swimming," Thorpe said. "We've built up this day as a very special day."

The U.S. quartet touched in 3:13.86 as both teams finished well within the 3:15.11 world mark posted by another American squad, also featuring Hall, in Atlanta in August 1995, a year before the Olympics there.

Brazil took the bronze medals in 3:17.40.

The Australian win prompted ecstatic celebrations in a crowd which had witnessed five world records during the evening session - three set by home swimmers including Thorpe in his 400m freestyle victory.

"I wasn't going for the record. I was just trying to get the team off to a good start," Klim said.

"We proved that Aussie mates are Aussie mates. We made history."

Earlier, Thorpe gave Aussie fans the world record and Olympic title in a magnificent victory in the 400 meters freestyle final.

The 17,500 crowd had already witnessed one world record from Ukraine's Yana Klochkova in the women's 400 meters individual medley and anything less from the home nation's 17-year-old swimming hero would have been an anti-climax.

But Thorpe, clad in full bodysuit, delivered in style, scattering his rivals as he added the Olympic crown to the world title he won in Perth in 1998.

Thorpe was inside world record schedule throughout the race and won in three minutes 40.59 seconds to lower the mark of 3:41.33 he set in the Australian Olympic trials in this pool on May 13.

Italy's Massimiliano Rosolino manfully tried to keep in touch with Thorpe but the young master pulled away, powered by the enormous kick of his size 17 feet, to win by nearly three seconds.

Rosolino took the silver in 3:43.40, more than four seconds faster than New Zealand's Danyon Loader winning time at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Nobody else was anywhere near. American Klete Keller took the bronze in 3:47.00.

The flag-waving crowd had roared their support throughout, chanting "Thorpey, Thorpey!" and cheering as he hit his turns.

Thorpe smiled after his triumph and acknowledged their adulation.

"It was pretty front of my own crowd and it was just fortunate I was able to perform well in front of them," Thorpe said. "It really was a dream come true.

"I'm on such a high...and now I've come through in this style and fashion (it) proves me in my training and everything I do."

Thorpe had given his adoring fans an early treat by nonchalantly setting the first Olympic swimming record of the Sydney Games in the morning's opening session.

He did not over-exert himself in the heats but still produced sufficient pace to clock 3:44.65 and beat the 3:45.00 Olympic record set by Russian Yevgeny Sadovy in an epic final duel with Kieren Perkins at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Thorpe became the youngest men's world champion ever when he won the 400 freestyle at the age of 15 in Perth in January 1998.

He has not been beaten in a major long-course race at the distance since then, winning the Commonwealth and Pan Pacific titles and lowering the world record twice before Saturday's stupendous swim.


Thompson leads assault on record books

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