SAINT ETIENNE, France, April 20. TUNISIA's and USC's Ous Mellouli raced to his second gold medal and Tunisian national record on the final night of competition at the French Championships.
Mellouli clocked a fast 4:17.03 for the 400m IM title, more than five seconds faster than runner-up Cezar Badita of Romania's 4:22.32. His time also eclipsed his old national mark from this meet last year by some five seconds and is just 11-hundredths off the African record of 4:16.92 by South Africa's Terence Parkin.
Mellouli's time ranks him third globally behind a pair of Americans, Michael Phelps — who set the world-record (4:10.73) during the "Duel in the Pool" two weeks ago — and Tom Wilkens, who won the U.S. national title earlier in 4:16.75, then matched it a few days later in finishing second to Phelps at the
Pretty heady company, but Mellouli says he and training partner Erik Vendt, the Trojan senior who won the 500-1650 frees at NCAAs last month and pushed Phelps to his old world record at last summer's U.S. Nationals, have designs of their own on the global standard — and the World Championship gold medal.
The other men's winners included France's Simon Dufour in the 50 back (26.40) and teamamte Guy Noel Schmitt in the 1500 free (15:27.77). Nicolas Rostoucher, who set a French record in the 800 free, opted for the 400 IM and was third (4:23.43). He holds the French record with his 4:19.15. Mellouli's time is the new French Open record.
In women's events, Belarus' Alexandre Herasimenia similarly set a French Open record en route to the 50 free gold (25.37), a tenth off her NR 25.24 from the 2002 European Championships. Countrywoman Elena Popchenka, winner of the 100-200 frees and 100 fly, was runner-up (25.68) and France's Malia Matella, bronze medalist in the 100 free, was third in 25.70.
Romania's Beatrice Coada-Caslaru won the 400 IM in 4:44.53 to go along with golds in the 200 breast and 200 IM. She was the bronze medalist in Sydney in a national record 4:39.18.
Denmark's Majlcen Thorup won the 50 breast (32.56).
Holland will have its selection meet next week, Germany will follow in mid-May and England will have its final selection Trials in late June. The United States chose its team off the U.S. Nationals last summer in Ft.Lauderdale.