Pan Pacific swim meet is `clean start` for Aussies

Irvine: A young Australian team will be looking for a "clean start" and a springboard toward the 2012 London Olympics when the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships start.

Australian head coach Leigh Nugent characterized the Aussie mission at the multi-national meeting as a "rebuilding" effort, coming after a 2009 season marked by controversy over the now-banned bodysuits.

Perennial pool powerhouse Australia finished fourth in the 2009 World Championships medals table last year in Rome, and Nugent said he and his swimmers were keen to boost that status.

"We`re trying to put 2009 behind us and forget about the suit era and all the complications that went with that," Nugent said. "It`s a clean start."

Nugent noted that a third of the Australian PanPacs team are newcomers.

The women`s team features a group of highly touted teenagers in Emily Seebohm, Yolane Kukla, Katie Goldman and Blair Evans.

While Libby Trickett has retired, Olympic champion Leisel Jones has returned to competition and Beijing Games treble gold medallist Stephanie Rice is also slated to compete despite a nagging shoulder injury.

"Her shoulder is tender, so it`s a day-by-day proposition," Nugent said of Rice. "She`s been able to swim quite well some days and some days not so good."

World champions Jessicah Schipper and Brenton Rickard are also on an Australian squad that is completing its preparation - and filling the last remaining berths - for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October.

Swimmers from the four charter PanPac countries of the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia will face top swimmers from a wealth of other non-European nations.

Entrants include Brazil`s sprint world champion Cesar Cielo, South Korean Olympic 400m freestyle champion Park Tae-Hwan, 800m freestyle world record-holder Lin Zhang and Olympic 200m butterfly champion Liu Zige of China and Tunisia`s Olympic 1500m gold medallist Oussama Mellouli.

While some Commonweath Games berths are on the line for Australian swimmers, times from the meet will help determine the US team for next year`s world championships and for Japanese swimmers Asian Games places are at stake.

Only two swimmers per country can swim in the finals, so the pressure will be on to perform in the preliminaries.

"The heat swimming is going to be fantastic here because there`s so much going on," Nugent predicted.

Bureau Report

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