CANET, FRANCE, June 9. MEMO to Big Foot: Remember that little round golden object you failed to get a couple of Septembers ago at some minor meet in Sydney?
Well, you just might not get it at Athens either.
Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband, looking more and more like King Pieter the Great of Olympic fame he became a bit more than two years ago, won his second 200 in as many tries tonight in the finals of the Mare Nostrum Series 3 meeting.
Swimming a solid 1:47.58 to win by nearly four seconds, Hoogie has been sending a message to a certain Mr. Thorpe that he wants that 200 world record back — and just may get it late next month during the European Championships in Berlin.
Hoogie's seasonal pr is 1:46.78 from a meet in Amsterdam last March. Australia's Ian Thorpe, world record-holder with his 1:44.06 from last summer's World Championships in Fukuoka, leads the rankings with a 1:45.09 from the Aussie Commonwealth Games Trials in March at Brisbane.
Hoogie and Thorpedo won't face each other this summer but will stage a rematch of their epic Sydney battle next July in Barcelona at the World Championships. And perhaps they may become "kissing cousins" again the following March at the World Short Course Championships in Indianapolis, a mere four months before Athens.
Hoogie has looked sharp in the two meets he's swum (Rome, Canet) in the Series and should be primed for a championship-style effort in Berlin. There in the 100 he'll be facing 50 free world record-holder Alex Popov, but he's defeated Popov in both 100s they've swum…so what's the worry?
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Slovakia's Martina Moravcova added to her 100 free gold with a world-leading 58.26 100 fly win and, similar to Hoogie, appears more and more like the
class of the field for Berlin. Yes, triple world record-holder Inge deBruin is still around, but Inky hasn't swum competitively the entire year save for one meet in Holland during March. She's now holed up in Portland training with Coach Paul Bergen, who helped prepare her for her three gold-medals/world-records at Sydney.
But Inky's not answering her e-mails or returning journalists' requests for interviews so the state of her training — and her mental outlook –(she and her long-time boyfriend Jacco Verhaeren broke up earlier in the year) are unknown.
One thing's clear: Moravcova's not getting any slower and is hungry for Euro hardware, preferably of the golden variety.
Another swimmer who added luster to her already burnished reputation here was America's Amanda Beard, who again defeated China's Qi Hui in a major
breaststroke race. Beard, who won the 200 at Monaco and Rome, won the 100 tonight (1:09.30) with Qi next (1:09.49).
Beard has to be pleased with her wins over Qi, the world 200 breaststroke record-holder, but the American still has to make the plane to Yokahama, site of the Pan-Pacs in August, by taking one of the top two spots at the U.S. Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale.
China's focus this year is not so much on the Pan-Pacs as the Asian Games in Busan, Korea this fall.
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Russia's Igor Martchenko went a pr 52.76 to win the 100 fly, and he'll be aiming for his country's NR of 52.27 at Berlin. That record belongs to Atlanta gold medalist Denis Pankratov. Martchenko's old pr was a 52.78 that won him last year's FISU Games title in Beijing and his time ranks him No. 3 on the Euro list for 2002, fourth overall.
Countryman Roman Sludnov went a seasonal pr 1:01.45 to win the 100 breast, and Popov won the 50 free (22.39) to give Russia three golds on Day 2.
Ukraine's Yana Klochkova, who yesterday went an NR 2:10.21 to win the 200 fly, doubled today with wins in the 200 IM (meet-record 2:13.93) and the 400 free (4:11.31).
Klochkova has the Olympic and Euro records in both IMs (2:10.68/4:33.59) with the latter also the global standard. Her shorter IM time is history's second-best performance. In the 400, an event she doesn't swim a great deal, she's got a pr of 4:07.80 — good enough to win the gold at Fukuoka and lead the world rankings for '01, that's all.
As is the case with several other swimmers, Klochkova could get four golds at Berlin — both IMs, 400 free, 200 fly. Too bad her country doesn't have enough world-class swimmers to make up a couple of hotshot relay teams!
Romania's Cezar Badita, back from purgatory after a drug suspension, made it a clean sweep in the men's IMs when he won the 200 (2:02.98) to go along with his 4:22+ 400 title Saturday; countrywoman Camilia Potec won the 200 free (2:00.86); Germany's sprint queen Sandra Volker went an easy 25.86 to win the 50 free; China's Yu Rui won the 200 back (2:02.98) while France's Roxana Maracineanu won the women's 200 back (2:14.44) to go along with her 100 victory.
– Bill Bell