Yokohama, Aug. 24 (Reuters): World and Olympic champion Ian Thorpe began his latest medal quest by winning gold in the 400 metres freestyle and 4x100 metres freestyle relay at the Pan Pacific swimming championships on Saturday.
The 19-year-old, who is aiming to win six gold medals here, pulled away from Australian teammate Grant Hackett over the second half of the 400 freestyle to win in three minutes 45.28 seconds, well outside his own world record time of 3:40.08.
Thorpe then produced an incredible finish to anchor Australia to victory in the 4x100 metres freestyle in 3:15.15 after an epic struggle with American Jason Lezak.
Thorpe had broken the 400 metres world record on the opening night of every major competition since the 1999 Pan Pacific championships, including the recent Commonwealth Games in Manchester, where he finished with six golds.
But a punishing schedule over the summer dashed his hopes of continuing that remarkable sequence. “I wasn’t trying for a world record. To get down to 3:40 would have taken a lot out of me and at this stage of the meet I didn’t want to do that,” he said.
Jennifer Reilly had already given Australia the perfect start when she won the first gold medal of the championships, taking the 400 metres individual medley title in 4:40.84. American Maggie Bowen took silver in 4:44.39 with Japan’s Maiko Fujino a surprise bronze medallist in 4:45.79.
Diana Munz claimed the first American gold of the competition by winning the women’s 1,500 metres freestyle in 16:07.86 ahead of Sachiko Yamada in a Japanese record 16:16.28. Australian quartet Jodie Henry, Alice Mills, Petria Thomas and Sarah Ryan stormed back to take the women’s 4x100 metres freestyle relay in 3:39.78 with the US settling for silver in 3:40.23.