Yokohama, Aug. 23 (Reuters): Australia and the US are set to resume one of the fiercest rivalries in sport when the Pan Pacific swimming meet gets underway in Yokohama on Saturday.
The mind games began early at a press conference on Thursday when Ian Thorpe dismissed his chances of breaking more world records, while teammate Grant Hackett complained of fatigue and a lack of motivation.
American Anthony Ervin countered that there was no extra incentive to beat Australia, but it was clear that nobody was being fooled.
The US want revenge after Australia won 13 gold medals to their nine at last year’s world championships in Fukuoka. The Australians will be desperate to hang on to their title of the world’s top swimming nation.
Thorpe, who won a record six gold medals in Fukuoka, could set the tone for the competition and break his own world record in the 400 freestyle for the second time inside a month on the opening day of the meet. The 19-year-old clocked a new world best of three minutes, 40.08 seconds to win the first of his six gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. He also holds the world record in the 200 and 800m freestyle.
Thorpe, scheduled to enter the 100, 200 and 400m plus three relays in Yokohama, has broken the 400 metre world record at every major competition since the 1999 championships.
Ervin, world champion in the 50 and 100m freestyle, will be a slight favourite to put one over on Thorpe in the 100m. Phelps, the closest thing America has to Thorpe, is on a high after establishing a new world mark in the 400 metres individual relay at the US national championships in Fort Lauderdale last week.