800 FREE WINNER MAY BE BARRED FROM PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Phillip Whitten
Minneapolis, MN – South Africa’s Ryk Neethling cruised to an impressive victory in the men’s 800m freestyle on the opening day of the USA Swimming National Championships, clocking the only sub-8 minute performance, 7:59.41, despite carrying a heavy emotional load. He also was swimming “unshaved and completely unrested.”
Swimming in the seventh of eight heats–foreigners were not allowed in the final heat–he held a steady one-minute-plus pace after an opening 100 meters of 57.26. “I only found out a day ago that I wouldn’t be swimming in the final heat,” he said, “and I was very disappointed. I could have swum faster if Chad (Carvin) and I had been going up against each other.”
But Neethling, who represents Hillenbrand Aquatics in Tucson, had weightier matters on his mind. “It’s been a rough day,” he confided, “a very emotional day. I just found out that I may not be able to swim at the Pan Pacs.” Apparently, when Neethling applied for a visa from the Australian consulate, the visa was damaged. Now, in a scenario out of Catch 22, he said he is being denied a visa because visas are not issued to holders of damaged passports.
Neethling, who swam 15:02 last year in the 1500m and is considered to be the best bet to challenge the Australian distance aces, said it would take two weeks to get a new passport and he is supposed to leave in eight days. “I want to swim in Sydney,” he said. “This swim today sets me up to beat the Australians, and I know I can do it.” When asked if he thought he could swim under 14:50 (Australia’s Hackett has gone 14:48), he answered, “absolutely.”
Chad Carvin, who stopped at 150 meters to adjust his goggles, won the final heat in a battle with World University Games hero Mark Warkentin, to finish second overall in 8:00.53. Carvin has “guaranteed” an American record in the 400 freestyle.
The women’s 800m freestyle was won by Badger’s Cristina Teuscher in 8:38.68. Swimming unrested and unshaved, the 21-year-old Columbia University junior matched strokes with Foxcatcher’s Maddie Crippen, 19, before pulling away in the final 200 meters. Second place went to Fort Wayne’s Becky Wilson, who won an earlier heat, in 8:41.06. Crippen was third in 8:41.71.