CHAMALIERES, FRANCE, May 6. ANTHONY Ervin has no need to stay up late at night yet, pacing the floor, in anticipation of a showdown with Algeria's Salim Iles. But Iles is fast establishing himself as Africa's finest sprinter and, no doubt, the personable young Algerian has dreams of, one day, going head to head with Ervin.
Ervin, of course, was the Olympic co-gold medalist in the 50 at Sydney last September with teammate Gary Hall Jr., and leads the world this year with his 22.18 from the U.S. World Championship Trials at Austin the end of March. But Iles, who competes for the Racing Club de France — their equivalent of America's Curl-Burke — has been making great progress of late.
At the closing day of the French Championships-World Championship Trials here today the 26-year-old Algerian sprinter scored the biggest win of his aquatic career, defeating double world record-holder/ Olympic champ Pieter van den Hoogenband to win the 50 free, 22.66-22.85.
In the semis, Iles was even faster: a national-record 22.59. The African record is 22.04 by South Africa's Roland Schoeman, a senior-to-be this fall for Coach Frank Busch's Arizona Wildcats. Schoeman did his time at the U.S. summer Nationals in Minneapolis two years ago.
After his victory Iles said he was "delighted" with
his big win, but said he also knows "Hoogie" isn't in racing shape just yet. "I am sure that at the World Championships, conditions will be quite different," he told the French media. When asked how he felt this win would prepare him to swim against Ervin, the co-Olympic champ, he replied: "I hope we are both in the championship heat, along with perhaps Popov and Hoogenband. That will make the competition very interesting. But we all have to attain the finals, something I have yet to do."
Iles, whose former pr was a 22.69 from an invitational meet in France last spring, didn't make it out of the prelims at Sydney while Ervin and Hall tied for the gold and van den Hoogenband took the bronze with a pr-NR 22.06. Popov of course won the initial Olympic 50 free at Barcelona in 1992, then repeated at Atlanta and holds the world record with his 21.64 from last summer's Russian Olympic Trials.
However, at Sydney, he finished out of the money in the 50 free and at 30 is arguably getting a "bit long in the tooth." In fact, Popov's win at Atlanta is his last major international 50 free triumph, having lost to America's Bill Pilczuk at the last World Championships in January of 1998 at Perth.
Similarly, Pilczuk not only has not won another major 50 free race, he's never even won a U.S. Nationals title nor made any other U.S. Natioanl team save for Perth. But he was the first to defeat Czar Alex in a 50.
In other finals, Franck Esposito came within .07 of his NR in the 100 fly (52.52) and won handily over Holland's Jeris Keizer's 53.78. Keizer was slightly faster in the semis (53.69) and holds the Dutch national record with a 53.33 from the Sydney semis.
The 200 back title was won by Simon Dufour (2:00.53) with Dutchman Klaas Zwering second (2:01.44). The 200 IM was won by veteran Xavier Marchand (2:03.64) with Olivier Saminadin next (2:05.82). The mile went to record-holder Nicolas Rostoucher in 15:14.65, who was just off his NR of 15:13+ from Sydney.
On the women's side, Perth world 200m back titlest Roxana Maracincanu won her specialty in a so-so 2:14.41; Marion Perrotin took the 800 free (8:46.80) and Solenne Figues added the 100 free (56.27) to her 200 win.
Aside from Hoogie's loss in the 50 (and he already won the 100-200-400 frees) the meet was quite formful but also uniformly slow — at least as far as the French swimemrs were concerned. Save for Esposito's world-class fly wins (52.59-1:56.07), the French times achieved here were far off most swimmers' personal bests.
However, unlike the Olympics, the World Championships have no entry standard a swimmer must attain in order to qualify for the meet. So perhaps the leading French stars were content to "swim through" the meet and focus their efforts on preparing to swim fast at Fukuoka. Time will tell, but the French were medal-less at Sydney and had few swimmers make it out of the prelims.
– Bill Bell
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