CHAMALIERES, FRANCE, April 30. LAST September at the Olympics in Sydney, Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband stunned the swimming world — not to mention a certain Russian and a certain Australian — with his world records and gold medals in the 100-200 meter freestyles.
"Hoogie" thus became the first male Olympian since a rather prominent American by the name of Spitz 28 years earlier to win those same two races in an Olympics. Afterwards, Hoogie said he "partied with friends" for a couple of months before resuming training.
In his first competitive effort of the year a month ago in Glascow at the Speedo Grand Prix he showed he had lost none of the form he had six months earlier at Sydney via then world-leading times in the 100 (49.54) and 200 (1:47.54). About the same time, Australia's Ian Thorpe was regaining the global standard in the 200 free with his 1:44.69 at the Australian Nationals-World Championship Trials in Hobart, swam the second-fastest 400 ever (3:40.76), went a pr 49.05 to win the 100 and also got the 800 free wr for good measure.
So it was with great anticipation that when Hoogie said he'd compete in the French Nationals-WCTs (50 M) which began today in Chamalieres, the record book would take yet another beating. However, if today's opening session is any indication of how Pieter the Great will perform, don't look for eye-opening times. He easily won the 400 in a pedestrian 3:51.03, with France's Sylvain Cross next (3:53.62). Both times are far off the Fukuoka world championship qualifying standard of 3:50.34 but it's highly unlikely "Hoogie" will contest this race in Japan come July. His pr and NR is 3:48.37 from a meet in Toulouse in March of last year — the first time he had ever seriously contested the distance. The French record-holder, Nicolas Rostoucher, was third (3:54.19). His pr and NR is 3:51.80 from Sydney.
In the women's medley, Marjorie Distel won in 4:50.98 — again far off the Fukuoka q standard of 4:45.33. The French record is 4:48.98 by Nadege Cliton from three years ago.
However, as was the case with the British Trials at Manchester earlier this month, this meet will not be a "be-all, end-all" affair as far as qualifying for Fukuoka goes. The Mare Nostrum Series, starting next month in Europe and encompassing Invitationals in Spain, France and Monte Carlo, will also be used as a basis for team selection, French officials said.
Only two finals, the men's 400 free and the women's 400 IM, were on today's program.
In the semis of the men's 100 breast Johan Bernard, who had never before been under 1:03.5, went a pr 1:02.86 and ranks second to Huges Duboscq's 1:02.78. The French record is 1:01.72 by Jean Christophe Sarnin from the World Military Championships in Zagreb in August of 1999. His 1:03.25 ranks him fifth going into tomorrow's finals.
Bernard went a pr 2:12.48 in the 200 breast at last year's French Trials, a time which ranked him second globally for the year, but finished out of the money at Sydney.
The other individual event was the women's 100 fly, where Maria Metella (1:02.56) and Diane Bui-Duyet (1:02.92) are the top qualifiers.
At the Swedish Grand Prix (50 M) over the weekend in Goteborg, the results were similarly modest but interesting nonetheless — primarily due to the presence of Romania's Dragos Coman. Coman was a steller performer at last summer's European Championships in Helsinki, but afterwards fizzled out.
In Goteborg, Coman won the 400-1500 frees (3:56.72-15:43.74), and was runner-up to teammate Danes Ionescu in the 200 free (1:52.91-1:53.15). Ionescu also won both IMs (2:10.50-4:37.49).
Sweden's 100 fly Olympic gold medalist Lars Frolander, who also holds the U.S. Open and NCAA record in the yards version of this event, won his specialty in 54.86 — far off his Olympic and European mark of 52.00 from Sydney.
Sprinter Stefan Nystrand, who set a pr and NR of 22.49 in the semis of the 50 at Sydney, swam a fast 22.63 here, and also went a pr 49.65 in the 100 with Frolander next (51.23). Nystrand's previous 100 best had been a 49.90 from last May's Swedish Grand Prix in Vasteras.
On the women's side, Johanna Sjoberg swept the 50-100 frees (26.36-56.37), and the 50-100 flys (27.98-1:01.12). Romania's Camelia Potec was tops in the 200-400-800 frees (2:01.18, 4:16.86 and 8:52.11). Potec's 200-400 prs are 1:58.79-4:08.09 –both Romanian records and both good for gold at the 1999 European Championships in Istanbul.
If one discounts the steroid-aided performances of the Wundermadchen of the former GDR, Potec's 200 performance ranks her third all-time on the European list while in the 400, if one discounts Chen Yan's 4:05.00 from the Chinese National Games four years ago, the GDR's Anke Mohring's 4:05.84, Heike Frederich's 4:05.94 that got her the silver behind Janet Evans at Seoul, Michelle Smith's 4:07.25 that got her the gold at Atlanta (and if you believe she got that medal legitimately we have a bridge over the Colorado River for sale, nice and cheap!), and the GDR's Astrid Strauss' 4:07.66 and Wang Luna's 4:07.86, Potec would rank 14th all-time (performer) and fourth in Europe.
Potec has never swum a serious 800 in a major international competition.
— Bill Bell
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