TUNIS, TUNISIA, Sept. 6. RECORDS fell faster than you can say "Thorpedo" on the third and fourth days of competition at the 15th Mediterranean Games here.
Celebrating the Games' 50th year — they began rather modestly in Alexandria, Egypt a half-century ago — the competition in general, and swimming in particular, has achieved the status of a major international sporting endeavor, analogous in many ways to the Americas' quadrennial Pan Am Games. All of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean–except Israel–are invited to participate in the Med Games.
In Wednesday's events, meet records were swum by France's Franck Esposito, who clocked 1:58.97 for the 200 fly to go with his Games record 53.66 100 fly effort on Monday; Spain's Paula Carabllido's pr 4:46.64 for the 400 IM; and Spain's 3:48.26 for the women's 400 free relay.
Today, Algeria's sprint star, Salim Iles, who trains with the prestigious Racing Club de France and who broke the quarter-century-old African 100 free
record of 49.44 with his 49.40 during the Vittel Cup last June in Dunquerque, went a Games record 49.91 to edge Slovenia's Peter Mankoc's pr-NR 50.16.
That record was followed on the ladies' side by by Italy's Chiara Boggiatto's 2:31.00 standard for the 200 breast and Slovenia's Anja Carman, a promising 16-year-old, who went a Games and national-record 4:13.89 to win the 400 free by nearly four seconds.
In the relays, Italy's 30-year-old veteran Luis Laera went a seasonal-best 56.07 leading off the 100 back and his team never looked back, setting a Games record with its 3:42.49 clocking. Davide Rommulo, Sydney bronze medalist in the 200 breast, split a quick 1:02.06 for thebreast leg, followed by Mattia Nalesso's 54.26 100 fly leg and anchor Simone Cercato's 50.10.
Croatia's Marko Strahija, winner of the 200 back in a Games-record 1:59.87 Tuesday evening, split 56.81 for the second-quickest dorsal leg.
Not surprisingly, Esposito — whose pr is a 52.52 (No. 2 all-time Europe)– had the quickest fly leg (52.92); and Spain's Eduardo the fastest anchor split (49.53).
Spain added to its gold haul with a record in the women's 400 medley relay (4:12.12). Backstroker Nina Zhivanevskaya showed her heels to the field by leading off in a swift 1:01.98. Then came Judith Llach's 1:12.90 breast split, 200 fly winner Mirela Garcia's 1:00.27 leg and Laura Roca's 56.97 anchor. The ladies of Spain thus won by more than three seconds over
rivals Italy (4:15.55) and Greece (4:17.70).
Zhivanevsyaka was far and away the quickest backstroker but Italy's Roberta Crescenti — who won the 100 breast in 1:11.00 — had the fastest breast
split (1:10.91). Garcia was the quickest flyer but anchor Roca — 100 free winner — trailed the anchors of Italy (Cecilia Vianini, 56.33); France (Solenne Figuiues, 56.47); and Greece (Nikki Niangkouara).
In events where no Games records tumbled, there was still some exciting racing.
The women's 100 fly saw France's Malia Mettella edge Garcia, 1:01.31-1:01.33, with Cypress' Maria Popadopoulou third (NR 1:01.67).
Popadopoulou was a steller member of Coach Terri McKeever's Cal Golden Bears squad last year that finished runner-up in the Pac-10 Championship to
In the men's 200 fly, Spain's Jordi Pau tied countryman Jorge Perez's NR with his pr 1:59.67, and Italy's Christian Galenda — who reached the World
Championship semi finals with his NR 1:58+ — was
France's Nicholas Rostoucher won the 400 IM (4:24.16 to Greece's Vasileos Demetis' 4:24.30) with the host country's promising 17-year-old Oussama Mellouli splashing to the bronze (pr-NR 4:25.30).
The medal was Tunisia's first of the swimming competition.
Spain's ladies kept their relay win streak intact by winning the 400 free title with a Games-record 3:48.26-3:48.74 win over Greece. Italy was bronze medalist (3:48.96) despite the heroics of anchor Vanini, who recorded the only sub 56 of the race (55.64).
Greece was actually ahead of Spain by .04 heading into the final 100 but Roca's 56.61 put paid to any hopes the 2004 Olympic host country might have had for the gold. Their anchor, 200 free champ Zoi Dimoschaki, went 57.13.
In Wednesday's final two events, Spain's Ana Paloma blasted to a 25.98 50 free win, just .08 off the Games record by Egypt's Rania Elwani from Bari four years ago; and teammate Erika Villaecija won the 800 free (8:50.36).
Elwani is a former All-America for Coach Steve Collins' Southern Methodist Mustangs.
In today's races, Croatia's Vanja Rogulj won his country's second gold, clocking a pr-NR 1:02.31 inthe 100 breast to top France's Hugues Duboscq's 1:02.81. The latter was a World Championship in a pr 1:01.94. Rogulj's old pr-NR was a 1:02.38 from a meet in his homeland in June.
Boggiatto followed with that Games-record 2:31.00 200 breast win, and the younger sister of 400 IM World Champion Alessio immediately challenged her sibling to a match race — she'd even spot him a 50 meter lead — which he chivilrously declined!
Turkey mounted the victory podium via a silver in the women's 200 breast (pr-NR 2:32.34 by Ilkay Dikman, a member of the University of Illinois' squad).
Swimming wraps up tomorrow, and among the athletes expected to compete is Italian Olympic/World Champion 200 IM gold medalist Masi Rosolino
in his specialty.
Iles will be gunning for gold in the 50 free and perhaps break his pr-NR of 22.59 from earlier this season. He may also take a crack at South Africa's
Fukuoka bronze medalist Roland Schoeman's 22.04 African Record.
– Bill Bell