By Bill Bell
CHALON-SUR-SOARES, FRANCE, April 21. TWO more golds for Ukrainian Olympic/World Champion Yana Klochkova highlighted the final day of competition at the French Nationals/European Championship Trials.
Super K picked up No. 1s in the 200 fly (NR 2:10.58) and 400 free (4:11.73) to go along with her earlier wins in both individual medleys, where she's
defending Olympic champ and European record-holder (wr-holder in the 400 too).
Only of late has Klochkova gotten serious about the 400 free. At last summer's World Championships she won the gold in an NR 4:07.30 to rank No. 1 globally for the year — until two Chinese swimmers surpassed her at the Chinese National Games in October.
Her 2:10+ 200 fly also ranks her second among the world leaders this year as only Australia's Petria Thomas has been faster. Second in the fly race ws
France's Marion Perrotin (pr 2:11.95).
In other women's action, Belarus' Elena Popchenko raced to her third gold with a 25.86 50 free clocking, just slower than her seasonal pr of 25.80 from the semi finals. Her NR is a 25.45 from the semis at Fukuoka.
Canadian Jennifer Carroll was the other ladies' champ with a 29.36 50 back victory.
On the men's side, Algeria's Salim Iles won the 50 free in 22.81 after his NR 22.33 in the semis. David Maitre (pr 22.83) took the silver while Julien Sicot (22.87) won the bronze. Sicot went a pr 22.57 in the same semis race in which Iles swam his national record.
In the 400 IM, Bernard Levaillant won in a pr 4:21.29, not too far off the French record of 4:19.72 by Nicholas Rostoucher from last year. He finished third (4:21.83) today with Oussama Mellouli second in a pr 4:21.61.
France's best medal hopes for Berlin would appear to be flyer Franck Esposito and backstroker Simon Dufour on the men's side, both of whom set NRs during the competition; and perhaps Solenne Figues on the women's side, who went 1:59.80 in the semis of the 200 free.
Sprinter Romain Barnier may have an outside chance, but he'll have to improve markedly upon his "modest" performances here (49.70-1:50.5+ 100-200 frees).
Amiong the non-French swimmers, obviously Klochkova will be extremely tough in whatever events she opts to swim, as will be Belarusian sprinter Popchenko and Romanian breaststrroker Beatrice Caslaru and compatriot Camelia Potec, a threat to win the 200-400 frees.
Germany's Thomas Rupprath, a fine sprint butterflyer, cannot be counted out of medal contention either, particularly in view of the fact that the Championships will be held literally in his own backyard.
"Home cookin' ("home pool"?) is always an advantage — just ask Messrs. Salnikov, Zubero, Thrope or the USA at LA or Arlanta.
But then…who won the women's 200 fly at Sydney?