By Paul Goldberg
LOS ANGELES, CA – South African Penny Heyns broke – and then re-broke – the world record in the 200m breaststroke during the prelims and finals on the third day of the sixth annual Janet Evans Invitational on Saturday (July 17) at the USC McDonald’s Swim Stadium in the meet hosted by USC and presented by Speedo.
Heyns, who already owns world records in both the 50m and 100m breaststrokes, swam a 2:24.69 in the prelims, only to go 2:24.51 in the finals. Her prelim splits were 33.35, 1:10.44 and 1:48.07. Her finals splits were 33.30, 1:10.64 and 1:48.13. In addition to it being a world record, the finals swim is also a U.S. Open and meet record.
Australian Rebecca Brown held the previous world record in the event, swimming 2:24.76 on March 16, 1994.
Heyns, a two-time 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the 100m and 200m breaststroke, is currently training with the University of Calgary Swim Club. After posting the record in prelims, she almost decided not to swim in the finals.
“I tried to scratch (from the finals), but they (her coach and meet officials) spoke me into racing again,” Heyns said. “Then I thought, if I think about it, I’ll try too hard and maybe I would (try to) swim a little slower. I still don’t feel like I did it. Every time I swim well like that, it blows me away. It’s like I’m blessed.
“Coming into this meet, I was feeling tired. If I could go 2:28, that would be nice. A long shot would be 2:26. Never in my dreams did I think this would happen.”
Tom Wilkens (Santa Clara), a member of the 1998 U.S. World Championships team, won both the 200m breast (2:16.09) and the 400m IM (4:23.79), the former time a meet record.
“My goal was to be mentally tough and get my head ready to race fast, even though my body is not there yet,” Wilkens said. “For me, the focus is how I swam the race, not on what the time was.”
Joanne Malar (University of Calgary) also posted a pair of wins, taking the 200m free (2:02.22) and the 400m IM (4:42.63), the latter a meet record. She won the 400m IM going away, with Kaitlin Sandeno (Nellie Gail Gators, 4:45.03) and Kristine Quance-Julian (Trojan, 4:50.83), in second and third, respectively.
South African Ryk Neethling (Hillenbrand) won his third event of the meet, taking the 200m free in 1:50.71, once again beating second-place Chad Carvin (Mission Viejo, 1:51.64).
“Hopefully, I’m putting things together for the nationals and Pan Pacs,” said Neethling, who watched his compatriot, Heyns, set her two records. Speaking of her performance, Neethling added: “If a swim like that does not inspire you, nothing will.”
Olympic gold medalist Jenny Thompson (Stanford) won her second event of the meet, taking the 50m free in a meet-record time of 25.75, well ahead of second-place Joscelin Yeo (California, 26.77).
“I’ve been feeling a little bit tired,” Thompson said. “I’ve been training hard and it takes its toll in the race. I have been a bit faster this summer, but I am happy with my race.”
Also commenting on Heyns, Thompson said: “It’s pretty inspiring to see someone have that kind of performance. It raises the level of competition and gives everyone that tingling feeling.”
Roland Schoeman (Hillenbrand) won the men’s 50m free in a meet-record time of 22.93, just ahead of Jason Lezak (Irvine Novaquatics).