By Fred Vergnoux and Craig Lord
DUNKERQUE, France, April 18. THE first day of the French National Championships and Olympic Trials at Dunkerque produced three French national records, but the visiting British Olympic team dominated the competition.
Through they are in heavy training, British Head Coach Ben Titley is requiring his swimmers to race close to their best performances from last week British Trials.
Here are the highlights from tonight’s competition:
Men’s 400m individual medley, final
No French swimmer managed to record an Olympic cut during the final tonight, but Yannick Bignon, of Dauphins Obernai, was crowned champion of France in 4:22.33. Britain’s Adrian Turner, of Stockport Metro, won the race in 4:20.55, four seconds off his best, with Gregor Tait, the backstroke specialist, third in 4:22.60, a Scottish record 2.37sec inside a standard that had stood to Paul Brew for 14 years.
Men’s 400m freestyle, final
A neck-and-neck battle between Britiain’s Graeme Smith and France’s Nicolas Rostoucher made the 400 free an exciting race to watch, but did not help the Frenchman better his French record of 3:49.35 set last year. The swimmer from Mulhouse won in 3:51.12, restoring Gallic pride, with Smith second in 3.52.24. David Carry, another Brit, took the bronze in 3.54.81.
Women’s 400m individual medley, final
The French qualifying time for Athens is 4.46.42, which was out of any swimmer’s reach this evening. Rebecca Cooke from England won in 4.48.19. Celine Cartiaux from Amiens came second in 4.51.79 while Sophie De Ronchi from Manosque was third in 4.54.32.
Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, final
The third French record came from the Toulouse squad led by Solenne Figues. The girls went 3.43.35, more than 3 seconds faster than their own two year-old record. Second was the CS Clichy 92 in 3.44.12, with Alena Popchanka anchoring in 54.69. As the only national team in the race, Great Britain's team of Lisa Chapman (56.47), Karen Pickering (55.35), Kathyrn Evans (55.27) and Melanie Marshall (54.94) were unchallenged, winning in 3:42.03, the world’s fastest time thus far this year.
Men’s 50m fly, semifinals
The new world record-holder in the short course 50m free, Fred Bousquet from the CS Clichy 92, posted a new French record with a 24.03 – the third time he has lowered the mark this year. He had a slow finish, so there’s little doubt he can improve upon that performance tomorrow in the final. Todd Cooper from England was second in 24.23, with young Amaury Leveaux from the Mulhouse team third in 24.36.
Women’s 100m fly, semifinals
The women’s 100 meter butterfly was the the most exiting race of this first day. After a strong 59.74 by Belarus swimmer Alena Popchanka in the first semifinal, the second semi featured a great dual between Malia Metella and newcomer Aurore Mongel. Mongel from Mulhouse took the lead at the 50 mark with a 27.94, keeping her position all the way to the finish and posting a personal best time of 59.33. Metella finished second with her PR, 59.52. Both swimmers are under the Olympic qualifying time. They will have to finish in the top three tomorrow in the final to qualify for Athens. It should be a tough, fast race.
Men’s 100m breaststroke, semifinals
Great Britain controlled both semifinal races. Brits went 1-2 in the first semifinal, with James Gibson touching in 1:01.26 and Ian Edmond in 1.02.19. In the second semifinal, Darren Mew won in 1:01.22, just ahead of Hugues Dubosq at 1.01.33 (an Olympic qualifying time). In the prelims, Dubosq set a French record of 1:00.84, bettering the 1:00.98 he swam in the semis last year in Barcelona.
Tomorrow sees the return of Claudia Poll, of Costa Rica, to international
competition after serving a two-year suspension for a positive doping test.
Poll, the 1996 Olympic 200 meter freestyle champion, has denied her culpability throughout the case. Poll will race the 400 meters tomorrow.
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