FUKUOKA, Japan, AP
Ian “Thorpedo” Thorpe’s dominating run at the world championships continued Wednesday when he broke his own world record over 200 meters to become the first swimmer in nearly 30 years to win three individual freestyle gold medals. The 18-year-old Australian, a day after criticizing governing body FINA because of expected changes to the competition programs and for not being quick enough to institute blood testing for the endurance-boosting EPO, beat Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband for gold. Thorpe, who has wins here in the 200, 400 and 800 and has broken his own world records in all three over four days in the Marine Messe temporary pool, became the first swimmer since American Tim Shaw to win three individual freestyle golds in one world championship. Shaw won the 200, 400 and 1,500 races at Cali, Colombia in 1975. In other finals Wednesday, triple Olympic gold medalist Inge de Bruijn won her first championship title, taking the 100-meter freestyle final in 54.18 seconds, and Randall Bal of the United States took gold in the 50-meter backstroke. Agnes Kovacs of Hungary won the 200-meter breaststroke and Britain won the gold medal in the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay when both first-place finishers Australia and the second place United States were disqualified. Officials ruled that the Australians had jumped into the pool before the last finishers completed the race. The Americans were disqualified for an illegal change. On Sunday, the American men’s team in the 400-meter freestyle relay finished third but was disqualified for having used a swimmer whose named was not on the entry list. On Wednesday, FINA executive-director Cornel Marculescu reacted to Thorpe’s drug comments by telling the Australian to stick to swimming. And that’s what Thorpe did, taking the lead with just over 50 meters to go and powering home in 1 minute, 44.06 seconds, breaking his previous world record of 104.69 set at Hobart, Australia, in March. Thorpe and van den Hoogenband waged a race-long duel, with the Dutch swimmer ahead slightly after 50 meters. The two were tied at 51.43 seconds each after 100. Thorpe was under his world record pace after 150 meters, then left van den Hoogenband in his wake, finishing ahead by nearly a body length. The Dutch swimmer was 1.75 seconds behind in 105.81 while Klete Keller of the United States won bronze in 107.10. Van den Hoogenband reached across the lane rope at the end of the race and raised Thorpe’s arm triumphantly in the air. The two are likely to face each other again in the 100 meters on Friday, when Thorpe will have a chance to go for his fourth individual gold. “I found it really hard to beat him,” Thorpe said of van den Hoogenband.”I just tried to prepare as best I could and race my own race.” Van den Hoogenband said he wasn’t expecting his best after taking a five month post-Olympic break and getting slowly back into training. But he refused to give Thorpe a psychological edge. “I’m looking forward to racing Ian next time — and to beating him,” he said. Thorpe, who now has 12 long-course world records, also won gold here with the Australian 400 meter freestyle relay team. Bal, a 20-year-old Stanford University student, finished in 25.34 seconds to edge Thomas Rupprath of Germany by one-tenth of a second. Rupprath took silver in 25.44 and Matt Welsh of Australia was third in 25.49. “I tried to go the first 15 meters under water and kick as fast as I could,” said Bal. “I think I did.” De Bruijn, who held world records in the 50 and 100 freestyle and the 50 and 100 butterfly going into the championships, led from start to finish, covering the first 50 in 26.12 and stretching her lead to half a body length. “It was the only thing missing on my list,” de Bruijn said. Germans took silver and bronze, with Katrin Meissmer overhauling teammate Sandra Volker to take second in 55.07. Volker was third in 55.11. De Bruijn, 27, was the fastest qualifier in 54.47 — 0.70 outside the world mark she set at the Sydney Olympics. Her best previous performances at the world championships were a seventh in the 100 butterfly and eight in the 100 freestyle at Perth in 1998. De Bruijn later won her semifinal heat in the 50-meter butterfly, finishing in 26.10. Olympic champion Lars Frolander of Sweden broke the championship record in the 100-meter butterfly semifinal, finishing in 52.17 seconds to break the mark set by Australian Michael Klim in 1998. Klim, the world record holder and defending champion, was second-fastest and won his semifinal in 52.50. The 23 year-old Australian, fighting an ankle injury, just scraped through preliminaries Wednesday morning, placing 14th of 16 qualifiers. “I sort of misjudged things this morning and nearly missed the semis — it’s always a tough fight,” said Klim. “I’ve had a few things thrown at me in the last few months and I’m just looking forward to the final.” Klim’s coach, Russian-born Gennadi Tourestki, has been charged with possession of performance-enhancing drugs and will face an Australian court later this year. He has been suspended by the Australian Institute of Sport and Klim has been without a fulltime coach. In the men’s 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, Kosuke Kitajima provided the crowd with an early thrill when he won his heat in 202.21 in a race marred by the disqualification of two swimmers.