HAMBURG, Germany, May 14. A trio of American-trained collegiate swimmers took three of the top four spots in the women's 100 meter breaststroke on opening night of the German Nationals/World Championship Trials here.
Georgia freshman Sarah Poewe, who had always represented her native South Africa in the past internationally, made her debut as a German citizen a smashing one, winning in 1:09.20. Florida freshman Vipa Bernhardt (1:09.64) followed and Oregon State's Birte Steven was fourth (1:10.23). Taking the bronze was Caroline Bohm (1:09.67).
Poewe actually represented Germany at last winter's European Short Course Championships, but this was her first meet where a place on the national team at a World Championships was at stake. Her career-best is 1:07.48 from the 2000 Olympic semifinals, which ranks her seventh on the all-time world performers' list and 21st on performances. That time is also well under the German national record — a 1:09.07 by GDR-holdover, Sylvia Gerasch, from the Sydney Trials.
Interestingly, Gerasch is also the holder of the former German Democratic Republic's 100 breast record with her gold medal-winning 1:08.11 from the fifth World Championships at Madrid 17 years ago. Prior to that, she won gold in the Friendship Games' 100 breast at Moscow two years earlier with a then national record of 1:08.29.
Poewe obtained German citizenship through an uncle. She still holds the African record in the 50 breast with her 31.45 and ranks second all-time on the South African and African lists in the 100-200 breast to former Nebraska NCAA champ Penny Heyns — still the world record-holder in the 100 — and double Atlanta gold-medalist.
Poewe was third in the 100 breast and fourth in the 200 at NCAAs last March while Bernhardt was third in the 200 at NCAAs and runner-up at the Southeastern Conference Championships. Winner of the SEC 200 (and NCAA second-placer) was fellow German Anne Poleska , who swims for Alabama and who will be among the favorites in the 200 breast here.
In the women's 50 free, Olympic silver medalist Sandra Volker went a 25.21 to win over Daniela Gotz, who clocked a pr 25.47. Gotz's previous best was a 25.72 from a meet in Luxembourg last January. Third was 200 free world record-holder Franziska Van Almsick (25.64). She's been 25.43 and her presence here indicates retirement is apparently not in her current plans.
On the men's side, the swim of the night was Thomas Lurz's 7:57.77 pr in the 800 free, a drop of some 14 seconds from his old career-best of 8:11+ last year.
Carsten Dehmlow, 26, won the 50 free in 22.69 with fellow "greybeard" Torsten Spanneberg, 28, next in 22.82.
The 100 breast had Rainer Schneider swimming a pr 1:02.06 for the win with Philipp Cool (pr 1:02.21) next. Third was another transplant, former Italian national team member Olivier Vincenzetti, who dropped his best time from a 1:03.20 to 1:02.43.
The meet continues through Sunday.