Americans dominate Pan Pacific championships

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The final day like most of the rest at the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships belonged to America's swimmers. The American 4x100 medley relay team comprising Aaron

updated: February 25, 2007 09:28 IST
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The highlight of the final day of the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships in Yokohoma, Japan was the 4 x 100 metres medley relay which saw the great rivals the USA and Australia go head-to-head. Ian Thorpe, who enjoys a huge fan base in Japan, was expected to anchor Australia to a gold and that looked even more likely when their backstroke star Aaron Peirsol dropped back behind Matthew Welsh. But Peirsol, who had won individual golds in the backstroke sprints, then got into his rhythm and by the end of the leg there was nothing to choose between the two teams. It was that America began to stamp their authority with first Brendan Hansen giving them a sizeable lead in the breaststroke before handing on to an equally impressive Michael Phelps for the butterfly leg. But with the great Ian Thorpe on the final leg for Australia there was still hope. Thorpe started a body length behind Jason Lezak and pushed further to cut the lead, but the American held on to win in a time of 3 mins 33.48 secs a new world record. Thorpe's best effort was only good for a silver on Thursday but he still returns home with 5 gold medals from the competition. Australia clocked 3.34.84 while Canada came third in 3.38.17 secs. However, Australia had the satisfaction of upsetting favourites America in the 4 x 100 medley relay for women a bit earlier. The Americans had a clear lead after Nathalie Coughlin completed a splendid backstroke leg. They maintained that lead in the breaststroke with Amanda Beard. But in the butterfly Australia made their move with Petria Thomas catching American Jennifer Thompson to make it even-stevens before the final dash. Australia's Jodie Henry then put the issue beyond doubt as she sped past the tiring Lindsay Benko in the final freestyle leg. Australia won gold in 4 mins 00:50 secs while America claimed silver in 4 mins 01:15 secs. Canada took bronze in 4:05:69. The American domination extended well into the sixth day as they won 5 out of 7 gold medals at stake. Earlier in the day, 20-year-old Natalie Coughlin of USA won her fourth gold of the meet when she won the 100m freestyle in 53.99 secs, a new championship record. Australia's Jodie Henry (54.55) and veteran American Jenny Thompson (54.75) were second and third. The United States made it two consecutive wins when Ian Crocker took the 100 butterfly title in 52.45 ahead of hot favorite Geoff Huegill of Australia, who stormed back from sixth place at the turn to take silver in 52.48. Canada's Michael Mintenko picked up the bronze in 52.69. Margaret Hoelzer got America another gold when she won the 200m back stroke for women in 2 mins 11 secs. The host nation had a reason to cheer in this event as Aya Terkawa claimed silver in 2 min 12.28 secs and Jennifer Fratesi of Canada won bronze in 2:12:71 secs. Another Aussie swimming star, Grant Hackett, made the men's 1,500 m freestyle race his own as he won with more than half a lap in hand. Hackett, also the world record holder in this event, swam the second fastest 1500m race in history to claim gold in 14 mins 41.65 secs. American Erik Vendt was second in 15:02.24 while compatriot Larsen Jensen was third in 15:05.17. In another final on the last day, Michael Phelps gave America another gold, winning the 200 m individual medley race in 1 min 59:70 secs. Japanese star Takahiro Mori won silver in 2:00:61 and American Thomas Wilkens took bronze in 2:01:17 secs. The Americans finished with 21 golds compared to Australia's 11 with Japan a distant third with 2 golds. (AP)