By Claudia Weidlich
March 18, Athens. THERESE Alshammar, of Sweden, caused mouths to fall wide open at the world
short-course championsips with one of the most astonishing world records
set in swimming in recent years; 23.59sec in the 50m freestyle. Needless to
say, it won her the title, not by the usual fingertip but by a full body length
in the shortest race in the meet, defeating her Hamburg training partner Sandra
Voelker, who was made to look like she was taking a Sunday dip with her
Voelker and their coach, Dirk Lange, both said that Alshammar's time
was faster than they had expected. They were not alone. So fast was
Alshammar travelling that her streamlined stroke was throwing water
backwards through the air like water off a wind-shield in a wind-tunnel
The world record that had stood at 24.23sec by Le Jingyi of China
had been considered reasonably tough to beat. When Alshammar lowered it to
24.09sec in December at the European short-course championships, a new
sprint star was born. The Athens effort suggests a future that holds more
than stardom for the Swede.
Alshammar's was one of three world records to fall on the thrid day
of racing, to take the tally of new global standards to 12. Neil Walker,
of the US, clocked 52.79sec in the final of the 100m individual medley, 0.31sec
inside the previous best, held by Jani Sievinen, of Finland, who finished
second to Walker, with James Hickman of Britain third. Hickman went on to
defend his 200m butterfly crown in 1:53.57 later in the session.
The other world record of the day went to Jenny Thompson, of the US,
who licked the wounds inflicted by Alshammar in the 100m freestyle on day
two with a 56.56sec pace-setter in the semi-final of the 100m butterfly.
There were almost four world records, as Lars Frolander, of Sweden, fell
just 0.01sec shy of the absent Alexander Popov's world 100m freestyle
record with a 46.75sec stunner inh the semi-final. The final on the last
day of competition may produce what Frolander is looking for.
Linday Benko furthered the US lead at the top of the medals table, and broke Sippy Woodhead's longest standing US record with a 4:02.44 victory in the 400m freestyle ahead of Yana Klochkova from Ukraine (4:04.39) and Chen Hua of China (4:06.63), while Roman Sloudnov of Russia set himself up among the favorites for Olympic breaststroke glory with a 58.57sec victory in the 100m, just shy of the 58.51 world record he had set in the semi-final on day two. The women's 100m medley title was retainedby Martina Moravcova, of Slovakia, her 59.71sec victory a European record.