DURBAN, South Africa, April 16. ON the first day of competition at the Telkom South African Aquatic Championships, most of the excitement came in the men’s 50 meter freestyle semifinals. The meet, being held at the Kings Park Aquatic Complex in Durban, is serving as South Africa’s Olympic Trials.
In the two sprint freestyle semifinals, seven men broke 23 seconds, with Roland Schoeman easily the top qualifier for the final in a very fast 22.12 seconds. The time equals Schoeman’s winning time from the US Nationals and is the fastest time in the world this year.
Second qualifier is Ryk Neethling, the former distance ace, at 22.55, followed by Lyndon Ferns. All three top qualifiers train at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Four other swimmers swam 22.9s, including Darian Townsend (22.95) and Nick Folker (22.98).
In the 400 free, the evening’s only final, Mark Randall clocked 3:56.75 to upset Troy Prinsloo by 7-hundredths of a second, with 16 year-old Jean Basson third in 4:00.27. The Olympic qualifying standard is 3:52.01.
Five men swam 1:03s in the semis of the 100 breast with Neil Versveld leading the way in 1:03.18. Greg Owen (1:03.57) and Terence Parkin (1:03.60) can be expected to go significantly faster in the final.
The 200 fly semis were easy swims for the top qualifiers. Hungary’s Peter Hos swam the fastest time, 2:01.64, but he’s ineligible for the final. The top South Africans were David van der Bijl (2:06.46) and Ferdi Postma (2:06.60).
The 200 back semis saw George duRand equal Simon Thirsk’s South African record with a 2:03.14, with Jeff Norton second (2:04.71) followed by Thirsk (2:06.22). The Olympic QT is 2:00.20 – probably out of reach of these competitors.
The women’s 400 free final was relatively slow with Marizanne Grundling winning in 4:20.88, more than four seconds off the national record. Fourteen year-old Wendy Trott was a close second in 4:21.83.
The 50 free semis produced an interesting mix of youngsters and veterans. Lauren Roots, 16, clocked the fastest time 26.36, easily beating veteran Charlene Wittstock, 26.64. Third fastest through the semis was 14 year-old Tanya Strydom, with a national age group record 26.67, followed by 2000 Olympian Renate duPlessis, at 26.76.
But the crowd favorite was 37 year-old Edith Otterman, who finished fifth in the semis in 26.81, just off the women’s 35-39 Masters world record of 26.66, set five years ago by the USA’s Tracie Moll.
In the 100m breast semis, Natalie Burke led the qualifiers at 1:11.88, more than two seconds off the Olympic QT of 1:09.85.
Like the men’s vent, the women’s 200 fly was dismal, with 2000 Olympian Mandy Loots leading the way in 2:18.99, well off her continental standard of 2:10.58 set in Sydney four years ago.
In contrast, the 200 back looks to be a fast race with Melissa Corfe first to the wall tonight in 2:15.46. She appears to have Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry’s African record of 2:12.47 in her sights. Second fastest tonight was Charlene Wittstock in 2:17.02.