By Bill Bell
CHALON-SUR-SAONE, FRANCE, April 20. A second record in the men's 200 back highlighted Day 6 finals of the French Nationals/European Championship Trials here this evening.
Simon Dufour lowered his record from last night's semis (1:59.44) to an impressive 1:58.89 — third-fastest globally for the year.
In two days, Dufour has dropped the French standard from a 1:59.79 that he swam in the semis of this meet two years to 1:58.89. He'll next take this July in Berlin, site of the European Championships, at the European Record of 1:56.57 by Spain's Martin Lopez-Zubero.
Zubero splashed to his record 11 years ago (November, 1991) during an invitational meet at the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide Natatorium, known now as the Don Gambril Aquatic Center in honor of the retired Tide coach.
Since the Olympics the following year were to be in his home town of Barcelona, Zubero wanted to get the record "out of the way" so to speak, so he wouldn't feel pressured to "have" to break it the following summer and could just swim to win.
Which is exactly what he did, taking the gold handily to become his nation's first Olympic swimming champion.
When Zubero did that 1:56.5, he broke his old global standard of 1:57.30 from the previous summer's U.S. Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale, site of this year's meet too.
Zubero was a multi-NCAA champion while at the University of Florida in the alte 1980s and early
'90s. His older brother David was an Olympic bronze
medalist in the 100 fly at Moscow 22 years ago and also swam for the Gators, as did their sister Julie
Zubero's time still ranks him fourth on the all-time performances' list, third performer.
Dufour was basically swimming on his own this evening as the second-place finisher, 100 back champ Pierre Roger, clocked 2:02.62.
* * * * *
While she didn't swim a record as she did in the 100 free, Belarus' Elena Popchenko went a world-leading 1:59.46 to win the 200 free, just .18 off her
country's record of 1:59.28 by Natalya Baronovskaya from the Sydney Olympics.
Had Popchenko also not had to swim a pair of 50 frees (prelims, semis) she might well have gotten that 1:59.2 mark — and more. She'll have another opportunity in Berlin, where she'll likely face tonight's runner-up, Romania's Camille Potec, who clocked 1:59.82 — third-fastest for the year.
Potec is defending European champ from the meet in Istanbul three summers ago, where she sped to an NR 1:58.79.
The red, white and blue's Solenne Figues, who went a then world-leading 1:59.80 in one semifinal, was relegated to third in the finals with her 2:00.51.
Interestingly, France is allowing foreign swimmers to compete in the finals of its selection Euro selection meet, whereas U.S. Swimming will not allow foreign athletes to swim in its summer championships as the meet is the selection trials for the Pan-Pac Championships in August at Yokohama.
In the men's 100 fly, Frenchman Franck Esposito, who set the Euro Record in the 200 fly with his world-leading 1:54.62 win two days ago, went 52.67. His time handily bettered Germany's Thomas Rupprath 53.50.-Rupprath's time is his seasonal pr, as was Esposito's.
Australia's Geoff Huegill's 52.30 from last month's Commonwealth/Pan-Pac Trials in Brisbane leads the world in '02, while Esposito's time — his third-fastest 100 after his NR 52.52 and a 52.59 — is No. 2 globally.
The other final was the women's 200 breast, which was won by Romania's Olympic silver 200 IM medalist Beatrice Caslaru (2:31.60). That time is well off
her NR 2:25.00 from last year's World Championship finals, and is also short of the French Championship record she swam at this meet last year (2:26.38).
Runner-up in a pr 2:32.71 was France's Anne Amardeilh.
In the 50 free, Popchenko won one semi (25.80) while the other went to France's Maria Mertella (26.14).
In the 50 back semis, Canada's Jennifer Carroll, who holds her country's record with a 29.11 from last year's World Championship Trials, went 29.28. The other semi was won by Germany's Antje Buschschulte (29.71), who was silver medalist behind America's Haley Cope at the World Championships (28.51-28.53).
The world record belongs to Germany's Sandra Volker (28.25). The World Championship record was set in the semis by America's Natalie Coughlin (28.49).
Coughlin was World Champion in the 100 back at Fukuoka and also led off the U.S. 400 medley relay in 1:00.18, a mere .02 shy of the world-record. She was NCAA Swimmer of the Championships last month for the
second-consecutive year with her American/NCAA records in the 100-200 backs and the 100 fly.
The University of California-Berkeley sophomore is the only swimmer ever to simultaneously hold those three records, let alone set them in the same meet.
* * * * *
On the men's side, Algerian sprinter Salim Iles, 100 free champ with his African Record 49 flat, showed that time was no fluke as he lowered his 50 free NR from 22.59 to 22.33 in the semis.
That time is second globally behind America's Jason Lezak's 22 flat pr. Lezak, the former University of California, Santa Barbara and current Novaquatics' star, swam his world-leader to win the U.S. Nationals title last month in Minneapolis.
Both Lezak and Iles are the same age (27).
In the finals, Iles will be after South Africa's Roland Schoeman's African Record of 22.04, coincidentally also swum at Minneapolis. Hwoever,
Schoeman, this year's NCAA 50 free champ for Coach Frank Busch's University of Arizona Wildcats, did his record three summers ago at the U.S. Nationals.
Iles was bronze medalist in the 100 free at the World sc Championships in Moscow earlier this month.