ROME, June 5. SHORT course or long course meters, Minneapolis, Moscow or Rome, America's Lindsay Benko just keeps winning.
On the second evening of the Seven Hills Invitational tonight, Benko, the former All-America/NCAA champ for USC Coach Mark Schubert raced to a pr 4:12.29 400 free victory, a scant .02 ahead of Romania's Camelia Potec.
Potec is a former European champion in the 200 free and last year's World University Games' 400 free winner.
Benko's time is a career-best for the World 400 free sc champion and makes her two for three in the series. She won the 200 free at Monte Carlo last
weekend, but was touched out in that event last night by Slovakia's Martina Moravcova.
Benko missed last year's World Championships due to a freak accident where she broke her kneecap diving into the pool in Japan during a pre-meet workout, but won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S.' victorious 800 free relay at Sydney.
In another interesting women's race, China's 200 breast world record-holder Qi Hui finally topped America's Amanda Beard, after the latter had beaten
her twice in the last two races. Hui won the 200 in 2:26.18 to Beard's seasonal pr and U.S.-leading 2:26.46. Third was Olympic silver-medalist Kristy Kowal (2:30.20).
In the 100 free, Slovakia's Martina Moravcova went a seasonal pr 55.01 to top Australia's Jodie Henry's 55.53. Other women's winners included Russia's
Svetlana Komraova in the 100 back (1:02.34), following up her NR 200 back win yesterday; Ukraine's double Olympic gold medalist Yana Klochkova in the 200 IM (2:14.73) with U.S. Olympian Gabrielle Rose next (2:16.52); and Poland's Otylia Jedrejczak in the 200 fly to go along with her 100 fly title Tuesday.
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On the men's side, Russian sprint Czar Alex Popov, a quadruple Olympic gold medalist who missed last year's World Championships due to illness, showed he's rounding into form for the European Championships in Berlin in seven weeks with a 22.39 50 free win.
Popov took the measure of Italy's Lorenzo Vismara (22.70) and Algeria's Salim Iles (22.85). Vismara defeated Popov in the semis of the 50 at Monte Carlo last Sunday when the former false started. Tonight Popov made sure he stuck around until a millisecond AFTER the gun went off — and the result was an impressive victory.
Not so fortunate was defending Olympic and World 100 fly champ Lars Frolander, who could only manage a bronze medal behind Russia's Igor Martchenko (seasonal pr 53.17) and France's Euro 200 fly record-holder Franck Esposito (53.22). Frolander clocked 53.26 but said he was satisfied with his swim — after having won at Monaco — and added that his goal for the
summer was to regain his European record in the 100 fly he lost to Germany's Thomas Rupprath a couple of weeks ago.
Rupprath eclipsed Frolander's Sydney-winning 52.00 with his 51.88 during the German Euro Championship Trials, history's second-fastest perforamnce.
The home team scored a pair of wins when Emeliano Brembilla added the 200 free title (1:48.79) to the 400 free gold he won opening night(3:49.98). Second in the double-century was countryman Matteo Pelliciaro (1:49.71) and third was Danish star Jacob Carstensen (1:50.78). Fourth was France's Romain Barnier (1:50.76), who was a stellar performer for Coach David
Marsh's NCAA Champion Auburn Tigers' team five years ago.
The other Italian champ was Fukuoka 400 IM winner Alessio Boggiatto, who touched in 4:16.94 to America's Tom Wilkens' 4:22.01 and Romania's Cesar Badita's 4:22.15.
Boggiatto won last summer in an NR 4:13.15, the first time someone other than the current world record-holder, USA's Tom Dolan, was not on the top step of the podium since Barcelona. (Dolan won the '94-'98 Worlds plus the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, took last year off but has resumed training for Athens and has stated he wants to "threepeat" there.)
Boggiatto's time at Fukuoka ranks him No. 2 on the all-time European list behind Hungary's Tamas Darnyi's 4:12.36, a swim that won the '91 World Championships in Perth. Darnyi's Perth-winning time was the world-record until Dolan won the gold at the '94 World Championships in this same pool with his 4:12.24. He reduced that record to its current 4:11.76 at Sydney.
Boggiatto has told Italian media he doesn't just want to beat Darnyi's record at Berlin, he's aiming to surpass Dolan's too.
Other winners included World 50 breast champ Oleg Lisogor, with his sasonal pr 1:01.60. Second was Russia's Dmitri Komornikov (1:02.18), who set a Russian record in the 200 last evening with his 2:11.81 — second-fastest globally for the year.
In the 200 back, Japan's Takashi Nakano won in 2:01.44 with Italy's venerable dorsal specialist Emanuelle Merisi, 30, next (2:01.57). Russia's Evgeni Alechine was third (2:01.60).
The four-meet series takes its show to the French resort city of Canet on Friday and then concludes in Barcelona early next week. Although not probable, M. Esposito just might want to show the home fans he's
"King of the Fly" this weekend and improve upon his Euro record in the 200 — which at 1:54.62 is just .04 off the world record.
— Bill Bell