EINDHOVEN, Netherlands, December 6. WHILE short course action has dominated the swimming scene recently, long course returned to the forefront this weekend as the Dutch Open takes place. Notably, Canada's Annamay Pierse dropped her national record in the 200 breast.
The 100 backstroke events opened the first night of finals with Great Britain's Katy Sexton clocking a time of 1:01.79 to win the women's event, while the United States' Randall Bal returned to his winning ways with a first-place effort of 53.54.
While Sexton's time sits among the top 30 this year, Bal cut his best effort of the year – a 53.66 set in July – to move closer to Ryan Lochte's fourth-best readout in the world this year of 53.50. Aaron Peirsol (52.98), Michael Phelps (53.01) and Liam Tancock (53.46) are the only men faster this year.
In the 200 freestyle, Inge Dekker of the Netherlands finished just shy of her national record with a time of 1:58.63. Marleen Veldhuis currently owns the standard with a time of 1:58.26 from last December.
Meanwhile, European record holder Pieter van den Hoogenband charted a quick time of 1:46.46 – not far off his 1:45.65 turned in during the summer at the Netherlands national championships. His time also came within two seconds of his standard 1:44.89 set back in 2002. This is a strong performance, considering the time within his training regimen.
Pierse continued her ridiculously successful year by lowering her national record in the 200 breaststroke again. Earlier this year at the World University Games, she clocked a 2:25.73 to garner the record. Tonight, she chopped half-a-second from the standard with a blistering 2:25.22. While still well off the amazing world record time of 2:20.54 set by Leisel Jones, Pierse's surge into medal contention cannot be ignored.
One of the closest finishes of the day came during the men's 200 breast. Hometown favorite Robin Van Aggele overcame Germany's Andreas Losel to claim the title, 2:14.56 to 2:14.93. Van Aggele has the Netherlands record to his credit with a 2:13.12 from April 2006, but the readout set today is a nice start heading into his run towards Beijing.
The distance swimmers took center stage next as the 800 freestyle titles were up for grabs. Romania's Ionela Cozma touched first for the women in 8:38.44, while Slovenia's Luka Turk hit the wall in 8:01.62.
Finally, the 200 butterfly concluded the night. Germany's Annika Melhorn snagged the women's crown with a time of 2:11.05, while Belarus' Mathieu Fonteyn clocked a first-place time of 1:59.31 – closing in on his national record time of 1:58.75 set at Worlds in Melbourne.