International Roundup

PERHAPS one day swimmers in the Olympics will be able to contest the 50 stroke events (although one presume Denny Pursley shudders at such a possibility!) but for Athens, at least, it ain't agonna happen.

Laast month the International Olympic Committee put paid to such notions when it rejected the demands of several sports federations to add more athletes to the 2004 Games.

The policy adopted by the IOC will be to add to the number of women's events and reducing the total number of athletes to 10,500. For swimming this will result in the addition of two teams to the women's water polo
field, but as far as adding the stroke 50s it was "no way Jose" (no way Mr. Larfoui?)

"This is the first time in years that we have not increased the number of events for an Olympics. For the first time we are trying to apply the rules," declared IOC sports director Gilbert Felli. "No doubt some federations will be very unhappy but so be it."

One wonders if FINA ever suggested or pointed out to the esteemed Mr. Felli that it was not necessary to add any athletes if the stroke 50s were included, simply allow each country that cared to to enter two athletes from its EXISTING squad?

Well, perhaps Beijing in '08. By that time Messrs. Thorpe and Hackett should be about ready to ditch the distances and try their hand at the 50s.

In other news from the international scene, seems the men's Olympic 100-200 free champ and current 100 free world record-holder did a bit of extra-curricular rcelebrating at the conclusion of the Goodwill Games in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago, perhaps to an excess.

In any event, when this information was reported in the media, the celebrant and his fans became rather irate and demanded immediate retraction of any suggestion of impropriety — which was indeed forthcoming.

Guess some people just can't take a joke.

And that noted swimming power, Pakistan, has named a six-person team (all men) to participate in this month's South Asian Federation Championships at
Karachi. No word yet as to whether Afghanistan is sending any swimmers.

India, however, taking no chances, has decided that the inaugural edition of the Afro-Asian Games, slated for New Delhi in November, have been postponed
indefinitely amid security fears following last week's terrorist attacks. "The Games have only been postponed, not cancelled," said Indian Olympic
Association President Suresh Kalmadi. The new schedule is probably going to be in January or March of next year, he added. Among the sports to be
contested is swimming.

And in line with last week's tragedies in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Australian Grant Hackett, world champ/world record-setter in the 1500 free at Fukuoka, has decided to forego a planned trip to Manchester (England) to train with Scotsman Graeme Smith (world silver medalist in the mile). Hackett was also slated to visit London and test some new bodysuits of his sponsor (Speedo) and was expected to also stop in San Francisco for a charity swim.

Hackett cited safety concerns, saying "travel is too dangerous at this time."

And of the five Australians slated to compete at next month's FINA Cup competition in East Meadow, Long Island (breaststroker Brooke Hanson, flyer-sprinter Michael Klim, flyer Geoff Huegill [50 fly world champ], sprinter Sarah Ryan and 100 back World Champ Matt Welsh) — only Hanson has so far confirmed her presence.

"I think it's important for the world to come together, to unite, in support of the United States," Hanson declared. Wonder what her father — Australia swim media manager Ian — must think.

At the Mediterranean Games early this month in Tunis two swimmers, a Frenchwoman and a Greek man, tested positive for nandralone. The Frenchwoman was Catherine Bliamou, who swam leadoff leg of the 400 medley relay while the Greek was 400 IM silver emdalist Vasileios Demetis.

Lastly, longtime Germany swim queen (and current world 200 free record-holder) Franziska Van Almsick, who's not won a major international competition since her gold at the 1994 World Championships at Rome, says
she's far from hanging up her skinsuit.

Declaring she's "ready to compete at the highest level next year" (presumably the European Championships in her hometown of Berlin) Franny V. says she's confident she can return to form and be ready for the Championships. The German wundermadchen, still only 23, was Olympic silver medalist at Atlanta to Costa Rica's Claudia Poll, has been training for the past month with new coach Norbert Warnatzsch.

Her 200 free wr is among the oldest standards on the books and her 1:56.78 plus Rome runner-up Bin Lu's 1:56.89 are stil lthe only two sub 1:57.0 clockings. However, many in the swimming community suspect that Liu's time was done on something more than hard training and sheer talent and have long questioned her and her teammates' dietary practices.

Twenty-three? Heck, Dara Torres was collecting Social Security last year at Sydney as was teammate Jenny Thompson!

— Bill Bell

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