By Neville Smith
DURBAN, South Africa, November 20. THE second night of the 2004/2005 Telkom FINA World Swimming Cup series played out to a near capacity crowd at a balmy Kings Park Aquatic Complex in Durban on Saturday, November 20.
The first event of the evening was the ladies' 200m Butterfly (shOrt course) and it was Slovakian ace Martina Moravcova who took the early inititive and maintained the status quo throughout the race to claim the title in a respective 2:06.63.
Mandy Loots (South Africa), despite her best efforts, came up short and had to settle for the silver in a time of 2:08.90 which was a tad off her continental mark of 2:08.60. The dynamic Sara McLarty (USA) headed home the chasing pack to secure the bronze in a time 2:11.24.
The 100m butterfly for men followed and it was Germany's Thomas Rupprath who set the tone from the start. Off the blocks in a flash, the unassuming German surfaced well ahead of the field and held a significant advantage after the first 50 meters (23.79).
Maintaining a fliud rhythm and working his turns, Rupprath claimed the title in a time of 51.11 well ahead of a game Nicolai Skvortsov (Russia) who won the silver in convincing fashion in a time of 52.37, well ahead of the chasing pack.
Bronze went to Brazilian Kaio Almeida in a time of 53.04 when he outouched an unlucky Doo-Hee Jeong (Korea) (53.05).
With a lack of international female breaststrokers at this meet, it was pleasantly surprising to see Allison Sheppard (GBR) line up for the 50m dash. And what a cracker it turned out to be.
In a field that was dominated by local swimmers, the tall Scots lass held the early advantage and looked a winner coming off the wall, however the 14 year-old Claire Archibald (RSA) and Tammy Laubscher (RSA) hunted her down and going into the wall, it was anyone’s race. Thank goodness for ETD systems.
Archibald lunged and claimed her maiden international title in a time of 32.43 while Sheppard held on to secure the silver in a time of 32.46, a tad ahead of a game Tammy Laubscher who was satisfied with her effort of 32.47.
The South African public have been keen to see Ed Moses “part the waters” and in the 200m breaststroke they were not disappointed. The likeable world record-holder has been a hit with locals since his arrival in South Africa and he treated the crowd to a clinical display in securing the title in a time of 2:05.53.
Never challenged, Moses went through the motions, working his turns with both Roman Sludnov (RUS) and Oleg Lisogor (UKR) working in vain to hunt him down. Australian Brenton Rickard in lane 7, however, was having a solid swim on the outside and with 50 meters to go, overhauled the more illustrious Sludnov and Lisogor.
Undaunted, Rickard maintained his powerful fluid stoke to secure the silver in a time of 2:08.66, well ahead of Sludnov who edged Lisogor for the bronze in a time of 2:09.66. Lisogor had to be content with a 2:10.00.
The 200m freestyle for ladies saw France’s Solenne Figues dominate proceedings from the gun in lane 2. With Josefin Lillehage (SWE), Melissa Corfe (RSA) and Sara McLarty (USA) involved in a tussle in the middle of the pool, it was Figues who open up a commanding lead going into the final 50m and secured a convincing victory in a time of 1:56.20 to secure the title.
Lillehage was strong enough to maintain her position and secured the silver in a time of 1:57.18 while the versatile McLarty edged a game Corfe for the bronze medal.
McLarty posted a time of 1:58.50 while Corfe’s 1:59.14 was her PB.
The blue ribbon event of the evening, the men’s 50m freestyle followed much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
With the promising Brazilian, Nicholas Santos, the top seed going into the final, all eyes were on Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling who lined up alongside him. Add Peter Marshall (USA), Andrei Kapralov (RUS) and Darian Townsend to the mix and the possibility of an epic battle was good.
Neethling was off the blocks in a flash and headed the pack into the turn with Marshall, Schoeman and Santos in close attendance. Coming of the wall it was Schoeman who made up the shortfall and with 15m to go, Neethling and Schoeman charged, Santos responded, but it was Schoeman who out-touched his compatriot to claim the title in a time of 21.61.
A dejected Neethling had to settle for the silver in a time of 21.83 while Santos claimed bronze in 22.02. Peter Marshall settled for the fourth place in a time of 22.68 to head the chasing pack.
"Another day at the office," smiled Schoeman after his third victory of the meet. "I struggled with butterfly rhythm so I withdrew to keep sharp for the 50m free. Last year we won 13 medals in this World Cup event and at the moment 11 feels safe. But we're aiming to get more."
Neethling, who anchored the SA team to the 4×100 world record victory at the Athens Olympics, said his power was there, but he lacked the speed to beat Schoeman in his current form. "We've competed against one another for five years," he said. "We'll compete for another five."
The woman’s 200m individual medley followed and again the crowd were treated to some exciting racing. In an event that was closely contested by the medal winners throughout the race, the winner was determined on the final touch much to the delight of the crowd.
Local lass Mandy Loots headed the field home posting a time of 2:13.06 to edge out the versatile Sara McLarty (USA) who recorded a 2:13.14 and a game Helen Norfolk (NZL) who secured bronze in a time of 2:13.20.
Loots’ time of 2:13.06 smashed the previous South African mark established by Julia Russell in 1997 of 2:15.15 by over two seconds.
"It's really nice to win gold in my home country," she said. "But I'm really happy for my Gauteng teammate Clare (Archibald). She's still a junior and this is her first major win. I'm excited to be back racing again. I want to race."
The 50m backstroke for woman followed and it was Antje Buschschulte (GER) who edged out Ilona Hlavackova (CZE) in a race that left the crowd breathless. With the two swimmers matching each other stroke for stroke going into the wall, once again it was thanks to the ETD for providing the result.
Buschschulte claimed the honors in 27.84 while Hlavackova had to settle for silver in a time of 27.85. Bronze went to Kiwi Hannah McLean, who headed the pack home in a time of 28.93.
The men’s 100m backstroke once again saw Thomas Rupprath dominate proceedings when he claimed yet another convincing victory during this meet with an impressive 51.36. World record-holder Peter Marshall (USA) claimed the silver in a time of 52.86 while bronze went to Brazilian Leonardo Costa, who posted a 53.38
The final event of the evening was the men’s 1500m freestyle. The event was won by Yuri Prilukov (RUS) who held of a determined challenge from Rumanian Dragos Coman to secure the title in a time of 14:43.33. Coman was credited with a time of 14:44.93 while South African Troyden Prinsloo claimed the bronze in 14:59.63.
The meet concludes on Sunday