By Josh Jeffrey
HAMBURG, Germany, May 16. DAY Three at the German Nationals in Hamburg saw fast times across the board as a few national records were threatened, and distance ace Hannah Stockbauer put on another world-leading performance.
After the results of the women's 1500 meter free, it was expected that the 800 free would probably be a close race, as Henke won the European title last year in 8:23+ and Stockbauer has a pr of 8:24 from 2001 Worlds. But it was Stockbauer who had more left in the tank, as she led from start to finish, turning a two second lead at the 400 into a seven second lead at the finish. Stockbauer won with a time of 8:26.42, the fastest in the world this year. Henke was second in 8:34.20, apparently having used all her reserves in the 1500.
Barring a phenomenal improvement by any other swimmer, the men's 100 meter butterfly was over before it began. Thomas Rupprath, European record holder at 51.88, just a scant seven-hundredths shy of the world record, made his first appearance at these championships just in time to take another title in his pet event. His winning time of 52.21 was more than a second and a half ahead of second place finisher Johannes Dietrich (53.91) who just nipped third-place Helge Meeuw (53.93) at the finish. With World record-holder Michael Klim out of the picture for Barcelona, Rupprath enters co-favorite in this event with the USA's Michael Phelps and has the best shot of any German male to win a world title.
Antje Buschschulte took her second title of the meet with an uncontested win in the women's 100 meter backstroke. Unlike her title-winning effort in the 100 freestyle last night, Buschschulte was never headed, but nonetheless posted a speedy 1:01.27. Her personal best time is a 1:01.01 from the 2000 German Olympic Trials, but it's possible she could have finally dipped into the 1:00 club had she been given a better race. Sandra Volker, ranked in the world's top 10 in this event since 1998, finished second with a dismal 1:02.67, just ahead of third-place Jenny Mensing (1:02.86).
The men's 200 meter breaststroke saw two men inch within a half-second of the national record as Kamil Kasprowicz took the win in 2:15.27, just .17 seconds off the German record (2:15.10) set by Jens Kruppa at last year's European Trials in Warendorf. Giving him a race was 100 breast winner Reiner Schneider, who touched second at 2:15.54. Philipp Cool was third (2:16.37). Comparatively speaking, the German record is rather soft and will need to be improved upon greatly to factor into any hopes for medal contention at Barcelona.
The men's 100 meter backstroke had to be a nailbiter for Stev Theloke, who did not swim this evening but holds both the German and European records at 54.42. Steffen Driesen gave his best shot at stamping his name on it, and came within two tenths of doing so. Driesen won the event in a quick 54.62, with second going to Toni Helbig at 55.49. Robert Kroll was third, three-tenths back at 55.79. All in all, this is a much-improved event for Germany depth-wise, as four swimmers in total posted times under 56 seconds in the final.
The women's 200 butterfly was won by Annika Mehlhorn as expected, in a time of 2:10.91. Second place went to Heike Gabriel, nearly four seconds back at 2:14.80.
Thomas Lurz looks to be the future of German distance swimming as he took the men's 1500 meter freestyle in a nice 15:11.58. Second place went to Jan Wolfgarten at 15:24.69.
Action resumes in Hamburg tomorrow and continues through Sunday.
Day Three Finals Results Link: http://www.em-quali-hamburg.de/zip/dm03-pr6.pdf