BARCELONA, June 12. THE final day of the XXIII Gran Premi Internacional Ciutat de Barcelona concluded this evening with some close, exciting and excellent racing.
The meet's end also saw the conclusion of this year's Mare Nostrum Series which also featured excellent competition throughout the four meets.
One of the most impressive wins here was by Romania's Camelia Potec, defending European 200 free champ who won her that race yesterday. Tonight Potec won the 400 free in a seasonl-best 4:10.23, a mere .01 off her
meet record from two years when she went on the win the Euro title.
Countrymen Dragos Coman (400 free, 3:53.33; mile, 15:24.28) and Cezar Badita (400 IM, 4:20.80) also collected golds. For Badita it marked the second consecutive meet where he swept the medleys, as he did it at Rome last weekend.
When Olympic 100 back champ Diana Mocanu, whose 1:00.21 from Sydney is history's third-best performance, is added to the mix Romania has a small
but potent squad that could win more than a few medals — even perhaps some of the golden variety — at the European Championships in Berlin beginning
Mocanu will likely be thinking about a potential matchup with America's Natalie Coughlin, who won the World Championships last sumemr in Fukuoka, that may well take place a year from now in this same Barcelona Olympic Pool at the 2003 World Championships.
Coughlin's pr-AR, which came leading off Team USA's gold medal-winning 400 medley relay, is 1:00.18, just .02 off the current world-record by China's
He Cihong. That swim was done leading off China's gold medal-winning medley relay at the '94 World Championships in Rome.
Unclw Sam got on the board when Olympian and NCAA champ/American record-holder (100 yard bacsktroke) Neil Walker won the meters version in 56.51 to South Africa's Gerhard Zandberg's 56.82. Walker's pr is 54.51 from the U.S. spring Nationals at Federal Way two years ago and the former University of Texas All-America ranks fourth all-time on the U.S. list. The
only active swimmers ahead of him are world record-holder Lenny Krayzelburg and 200 back wr-holder Aaron Peirsol, whose pr 54.47 won the U.S. Nationals in Minneapolis this spring ranks him No. 1 globally.
Walker's an excellent 50-100 free sprinter too with prs of 22.05 (ninth all-time performer) and 48.55 (fifth all-time performer). He'll be looking to make the plane to Yokohama (Pan-Pacs) at the U.S. Nationals in early August at Ft. Lauderdale.
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Just as they battled for breaststroke supremacy in the other three meets at Monte Carlo, Rome and Canet, America's Amanda Beard, Sydney 200 breast bronze medalist and former University of Arizona All-America for Coach Frank Bush, and China's 200 breast world recored-holder Qi Hui went head-to-head in the 100 breast tonight. The outcome was the same as the double-century last evening, i.e., a win for the Chinese woman.
But it was oh-so-close, with Qi touching in 1:08.95 to Beard's 1:08.98. Ar the 50 Beard was ahead by nearly a second (33.19-34.13) but Qi caught her at the end. A rematch at Yokahama is likely, and with Olympic gold medalist Megan Quann possibly in that race and NCAA champ-American yards' record-holder Tara Kirk also a likely participant, Penny Heyns' world-record (1:06.52) could be history.
(It could also go at Lauderdale if this trio — as expected, makes the finals plus perhaps 200 AR-holder Kristy Kowal.)
Heyns, the former University of Nebraska All-America/
NCAA champ who swam internationally for South Africa, set her wr at the Pan-Pacs in the Sydney Olympic Pool three years ago. That time plus her 1:06.95 from the Janet Evans Invitational at the McDonald's Olympic Pool at USC — and two other 1:06 highs — make her one of only two women ever under 1:07.0.
The other is China's Xuejuan Luo, who went an NR and Asian record 1:06.96 at last fall's 9th National Games in Guangzhou. However, as with other Chinese swims done at various National Games iterations, it has a certain questionableness about it. Luo did win at Fukuoka in a Championship record 1:07.13 so she has swum fast when it counts.
China scored a second gold when sprinter Yanwei Xu won the 100 free in 55.32. Runner-up was Finland's Hanna-Maria Seppala in an NR 55.88.
The men's 100 free saw Algeria's Salim Iles defeat former world record-holder Alex Popov (49.98-50.03). Hungary's Attila Zubor — 200 free champ — was third (50.42). Iles led at the 50, 24.34-24.42.
Russia collected golds in the 100 fly (Igor artchenko, 53.00) and 100 breast (Roman Sludnov, 1:01.79) with the World Champion collecting a second straight win after his 1:01.60 golden swim at Rome. Second was
Ukraine's 50 breast World Champ Oleg Lisogor (1:01.98).
The host country saw its star backstroker, Nina Zhivanevskaya, win the 100 back (1:02.29) to go with her 200 win Tuesday. Only Spain's Martin Lopez-Zubnero, a former University of Florida NCAA champ/world record-holder, has won a World Championship gold among his country's swimmers.
He's also the only Spaniard to ever win an Olympic gold — the 200 back in this same pool a decade ago. Zubero's world-record (1:56.57) lasted from November of '91 until August of '99, when Krayzelburg broke it with a his 1:55.87, which Peirsol reduced to 1:55.15 at Minneapolis.
Zhivanevskaya would like to become the first Spanish woman to emulate that feat but she's got some "heavy lifting" to do before she mounts the top step of the podium here next summer or at Athens in two years.
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Poland's Otilya Jedrzejczak took home her second gold with a 1:00.02 100 fly win, the Czech republic's Hanna Retrefova won the 400 IM (4:47.42) to wrap up the competition.
Next stop: Berlin for the Europeans (save Great Britain, which will host the Commonwealth Games in Manchester at the same time the Euro meet goes off); and Ft. Lauderdale and Yokohama forthe U.S. and its Pacific Rim competitors.
Australia, New Zealand, Canada and a few other countries that will swim at Mancehster will also compete at the Pan-Pacs, and of couse China will be in
Meantime, the U.S. Grand Prix Series resumes in two and-a-half weeks at Santa Clara, then comes to Los Angeles (Janet Evans Invitational) the second weekend of July, then concludes a week later at Long Island ('98 Goodwill Games Pool ands ite of last year's women's NCAA Championships).
The Mission Viejo Meet of Champions, featuring Coach Dave Salo's power house Irvine NOVA team (Peirsol, sprinter Jason Lezak, Olympians Gabriel Rose and
Michael Cavic plus 100 bsck world-leader Diana MacManus) is a week from this weekend too.
The Nadadores have some fine talent of their own including Olympian Chad Carvin and U ofA All-America Juan Veloz, a Mexican Olympian.
– Bill Bell