DURBAN, South Africa, November 19. A GLUT of South African national records took a tumble on the first night of the 2004/2005 Telkom FINA Swimming World Cup series, which got underway at the Kinds Park Aquatic Complex in Durban on Friday night.
A light shower that fell during the Opening Ceremony certainly did not dampen the spirits of the contestants as a near capacity crowd once again witnessed world-class swimming at this fine venue.
The presence of three members of the “awesome foursome,” Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman and Darian Townsend was well received by the partisan crowd and they did not disappoint.
From the onset it was obvious that the support lay firmly behind the home team.
The 400m freestyle got matters underway with Ryk Neethling heading the field which resembled an extended line across the pool as Yuri Prilukov (RUS), Dragos Coman (ROM) and Dominik Meichtry (SUI) stayed in touch with Neethling matching him stroke for stroke.
Going into the last 100m it was Prilukov who picked up the pace a edged ahead of Neethling, who immediately responded. Going into the final turn the Russian had the edge and despite Neethling's best efforts it was Yuri Prilukov who took the honors in 3:43.57 with Ryk posting a 3:43.79. The battle for the minor placing was as fierce as the gold, as Coman(3:45.47) held of Meichtry(3:45.62) to secure the silverware.
The ladies' 50m butterfly followed and it was Swedish ace Anna-Karin Kammerling that was off the blocks in a flash to establish a lead going into the turn that was never challenged.
Kammerling posted a 26.36, well off her world mark of 25.36 established in Stockholm in January 2001. The battle for the minor placing was keen as Martina Moravcova (Slovakia) overhauled local lass Mandy Loots to claim the silver in a time of 26.75.
Loots’ 26.89 was a new South African record.
"Funny how things turn out," said Loots "I had to stay at home and work hard at my swimming and look what's happened. Maybe I needed my butt kicked a bit. I'm still on strength training in my buildup to nationals (next March) for selection for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne a year later."
Thomas Rupprath swam the fastest 200m Butterfly ever on the African continent when he powered his way to a fine 1:52.82 to claim the title.
It was Russian Nicolay Skvortsov who headed the chasing pack to secure the silver in a time of 1:54.24 with George du Rand (South Africa) winning the bronze in a new South African record of 1:56.64 ahead of Doo-Hee Jeong (1:56.66) of Korea.
The ladies 100m breaststroke was pedestrian with the top three placing going to South Africans. Tamaryn Loubscher won the event in a time of 1:09.59 ahead of the promising Claire Archibald who was game in posting a 1:09.74.
Third place went to former SA LC Champion Suzaan van Biljon who recorded a 1:10.36.
The men’s 50m breaststroke was punted as one of the highlights of the first evening’s events and the athletes did not disappoint. In a field that included the likes of Roman Sludnov(RUS), Oleg Lisogor(UKR) and Ed Moses (USA), the result was hard to predict.
A characteristic explosive start by Roland Schoeman saw the South African come up ahead of the pack, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd. Coming off the turn it was clear that the battle would be for the minor placing.
Lisogor surged, Moses responded but it was Aussie Brenton Rickard (27.33) who got up to edge out his more illustrious competitors to claim silver behind Schoeman’s (27.26) national mark. Lisogor secured the bronze in 27.34 while Moses had to settle for fourth place in a time of 27.37.
The 100m freestyle for woman followed with Europeans dominating affairs.
The event was won by Josefin Lillhage (SWE) in a time of 54.48 ahead of Solenne Figues (FRA) (54.77) and Martina Moravcova (54.85). The evergreen world champion (sc) Alison Sheppard (GBR) filled fourth spot in a time of 55.38 while Germany’s Antje Buschschulte managed fifth place in 55.61.
South African hope Lauren Roets was disappointing with her 56.03 as she faded over the back half of the race.
The men’s event had the crowd abuzz as the three Olympic heroes stepped up to the blocks for the 100m freestyle for men.
Schoeman used his trademark start to set up early dominance heading the field through the first 50m in 22.70 with Neethling (23.10) and Townsend (23.61) in attendance.
Despite a huge third lap by Neethling it was Schoeman who claimed victory in a time of 47.12 ahead of Ryk who went a 47.49. Townsend claimed bronze in 49.30 ahead of a fast finishing Andrey Kapralov (RUS)(49.42) and Andrew Mewing (AUS) (49.79).
"Swimming's got to be better than rugby and cricket for South Africans right now," grinned Schoeman after two golds and a bronze on the first of three nights of the FINA showpiece. "South Africans are winning in swimming."
The 400m Individual Medley for woman was won by Sara McLarty (USA) in a time of 4:35.57 who dominated the event from the second turn and was never challenged. Helen Suffolk (NZL) headed the pack home to secure the silver in a time of 4:39,08 while many Loots kept local hopes alive with a 4:39,61 to claim the bronze medal.
The men’s 100m Individual Medley saw Ryk Neethling post the best performance of the evening when he dominated proceedings to produce a world class 53.13 (1010 points) much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
The silver went to Oleg Lisogor (54.81) while Brendon Rickard (Aus) edged his Tasmanian neighbor, Dean Kent (NZL) to claim the bronze in 55.11. Kent went a 55.53.
"It's been a long night," said Neethling who also won silver in the 400m freestyle in the first event of the evening. "This proves that my fitness is pretty good for the rest of the World Cup events I'll be swimming. It seems like our victory in Athens was the beginning of something."
Much has been said about Melissa Corfe of late and after her fine performance in Indianapolis in the 200m Backstroke a keen race was anticipated in Durban.
Corfe seized the intuitive from the gun and despite the close attentions of the Kiwi trio of Melissa Ingram, Hannah McLean and Helen Norfolk, it was the local lass who produced the goods on the day to claim a convincing victory in 2:09.22.
Melissa Ingram (2:09.45) and Hannah McLean (2:10.43) claimed the minor placing.
Thomas Rupprath (GER) was explosive in his convincing victory in the 50m Backstroke posting an impressive 23.68 (1006 points) to secure his second victory of the evening. Russian Arkady Vyatchanin won the silver in a time of 24.63 while Roland Schoeman, who had a busy evening settled for the bronze in a time of 25.33.
The final event of the evening was the ladies 800m freestyle and it was Sara McLarty from the USA who claimed a convincing victory in a time of 8:27.46 ahead of Solenne Figues (FRA) who posted a 8:32,05. Bronze went to Melissa Corfe (8:34.42) who held off a fast finishing Camella Potec (ROM) who recorded a 8:34.89.