By Phillip Whitten
Ten Masters world records and over three dozen European marks fell by the wayside at the European Masters Swimming Championships held August 25-29 at the Tivoli Swim Stadium in picturesque Innsbruck, Austria. More than 2,000 Masters swimmers from virtually every nation in Europe competed in the five-day swim festival. Germany, in anticipation of next year’s World Championships, which will be held in Munich, dominated the meet, but swimmers from Great Britain, Russia and tiny Israel performed admirably.
Six swimmers accounted for the ten world marks, with four swimmers garnering two WRs apiece. Seven of the records were set in the breaststroke, three in butterfly events.
Great Britain’s Nick Gillingham, a 1988, ’92 and ’96 Olympian, smashed the world marks in the 100m and 200m breaststroke for men 30-34. Gillingham took the 100 in 1:05.12, erasing the 1:05.64 set by Seth Van Neerden (USA) just last year. In the 200, the intrepid Brit slashed almost four seconds off the 1991 mark of 2:24.06 set by the USA’s David Lundberg. Splitting 1:07.64 at the 100, Gillingham came home strongly to touch in 2:20.43, four seconds faster than the 25-29 mark.
In winning the 200, Gillingham came close to achieving the goal he had set for himself. Before the meet, the British star told SWIM: “My goal is to break 2:20. Though I’m only able to swim three days a week, I think I’ll be able to do it.”
Another Brit, Judy Wilson, destroyed two impressive marks in the women’s 55-59 division. Wilson clocked 33.39 for the 50m butterfly and 1:18.61 for the 100. Her performance in the 50 erased the 14-year-old mark of 35.29 set by Gail Roper of the USA; Roper’s had been one of the oldest records in the books. In the 100, Wilson hacked more than three seconds off the former record of 1:21.91,set by Swimming Hall-of-Famer Ardeth Mueller (USA) in 1997.
Germany’s Dagmar Hillbig showed why she is unbeatable in the women’s 40-44 breaststroke events. Hillbig lowered her own world marks of 1:18.38 in the 100m and 2:51.96 in the 200m, clocking 1:17.21 and 2:49.95.
Olga Kokorina of Russia made borscht out of the old records in the 100 and 200m breaststroke for women 75-79. In the 100, the Russian babushka clocked 1:56.06, more than two seconds faster than American Regan Kenner’s 1:58.81 from last year. In the 200 she was almost ten seconds faster than Kenner’s standard of 4:18.18, touching in 4:08.40.
Russia’s Yevgenia Oyogina took down the 200m butterfly mark for women 30-34. Her time of 2:20.07 was just a whisper ahead of Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen’s 2:20.12 from 1996.
Finally, Sylvia Neuhauser gave the home crowd something to cheer about. An Austrian, Neuhauser set the only world mark by the home team when she clocked 3:54.69 for the women’s 70-74 200m breaststroke. The former record, 3:56.03, had been set last year by Germany’s Erika Lange.