KINGSCLIFF?S Tayliah Zimmer celebrates a brilliant comeback in the 50 metres backstroke to take bronze at the World Titles.
KINGSCLIFF?S Tayliah Zimmer celebrates a brilliant comeback in the 50 metres backstroke to take bronze at the World Titles.

Bronze puts fire back in Zimmer?s belly as Hackett?s hopes fade

By TOM WALD and BOB ANTHONY

THE fire was back in Tayliah Zimmer's belly, claiming the bronze medal in the 50-metre backstroke final on Thursday night at the FINA World Championships in Melbourne.

Zimmer clocked a personal best time of 28.50 seconds to finish third behind Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Bulgaria (28.46) and the USA's world-record setter Leila Vaziri (28.16).

It was a welcome turnaround in form for the Kingscliff swimmer, who finished last in the 100-metre final on Tuesday night.

Zimmer regained her composure on Thursday, finishing .3 seconds faster than her previous personal best time.

"It's still faster than ever before, it's got the fire back in my belly ... I was a bit upset after the 100. I didn't know what went wrong, I had to regain that confidence in my head. I'm really happy with it," Zimmer said after the race.

Gold medallist Vaziri had broken the world record for the 50m in the semi-final, but Zimmer said she had not let the tough competition distract her.

"I couldn't help the world record being broken, I just had to worry about myself and I did that," she said.

Zimmer came tantalisingly close to taking out the silver medal.

"It was really close for second and third . . . I just went for it and came out with the bronze," she said.

There was no time for Zimmer to rest after her win. She went straight into preparing for the 4x100-metre medley heats yesterday.

Meanwhile, things were looking pretty gloomy for Gold Coast superstar Grant Hackett.

For a man who has never shirked a challenge, Grant Hackett's expected decision to pull out of the 1500m this morning is almost unthinkable.

The endurance supremo has overcome countless health problems and mental doubts in the past to earn the plaudit of the greatest distance swimmer in history.

Even the perception of the Australian team captain dodging the race to maintain his decade-long unbeaten streak would cut him up.

Hackett hasn't formally pulled out of his pet event, but the fact he has, in public, even considered skipping the race suggests that he will.

"I have swum in very difficult situations before and I have been able to prevail," he said yesterday.

"But I have to be honest with myself and if my body is at a certain level then I have to make a very tough decision.

"This is a negative situation to be in.

"I did not think I would be sitting here answering these sort of questions. "I want to be getting up there and competing and up against my rivals.

"I want to get up and not only swim for myself but the team because I am team captain."

Hackett, who turns 27 in May, knows distance swimming is a young man's game and his body is just not allowing him the rate of recovery he could call upon in the past.

There has been speculation that he is not in full health and he just doesn't look to have the kilometres in his arms and legs.

His abrupt decision to move from the Gold Coast to Melbourne last month was one thing, but he also looks laboured in the water compared to the swimmer who carved up at the 2005 Montreal world titles.

This is Hackett's first competition since shoulder surgery and, perhaps still finding full confidence in his shoulders, he has started talking about his best times post-surgery.

Such comments are expected from athletes who are unsure of themselves, not someone chasing a third straight Olympic title in Beijing next year.

Hackett's week has been disastrous. His third place in the 400m dented his aura and his second last place in the 800m made him look like a champion fading from view.



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