By Phillip Whitten
DUBLIN, Ireland, Dec. 11. THERE are several major swimming powers in Europe, with Germany, Russia, Italy and a resurgent Great Britain coming immediately to mind. But it was tiny Slovenia that won two individual gold medals on the first day of competition at the 2003 European Short Course Championships in Dublin, Ireland. No other country could manage more than one individual gold.
Blaz Medvesek won Slovenia's first, taking the men's 200 meter backstroke in a Championship Record (CR) 1:52.60 in a race in which just 1.4 seconds separated all eight finalists. Medvesek led all the way, carving out a large lead for himself, then just managing to hold off Germany's Steffen Driesen (1:53.07) and Austria's Markus Rogan (1:53.08).
Alenka Kejzar, a standout at SMU, won gold #2 for her native land with a similar wire-to-wire triumph in the women's 200 IM. In the absence of perennial champ Yana Klochkova, the race was considered wide open. Not for long. Kejzar quickly filled the vacuum left by Klochkova and was barely pressed as she stroked to a time of 2:09.32. Hanna Shcherba of Belarus was second in 2:11.00 while newcomer Teresa Rohmann of Germany finished third in 2:11.44.
Britain's Mark Foster won the 50 free, the event in which he holds the short course world record in 21.13, but he did it the hard way. After barely making it past the first round — the 33 year-old Brit qualified in the 16th and final spot in 22.34 by way of a swim-off — Foster got down to bidness. Not taking any chances, he swam the fastest semifinal time, 21.34, then won the final handily in 21.42. Serbia-Montenegro's Milorad Cavic — better known as Mike Cavic, a Cal sophomore — was second in 21.49 with Poland's Bart Kizierowski, a Cal graduate, third in 21.54. Sweden's Stefan Nystrand, who won this event in 2001 in 21.15 — history's second-fastest swim — was fourth.
"I like to do it the hard way since I had to do extra-time this morning in
the swim-off," said Foster, who had six swims on the day — four in the 50
freestyle and two in the 200 medley relay in which Germany set a world best time in the final and Britain finished seventh.
Italy's Massimiliano Rosolino shared the first title of the meet with 19-year-old Russian Yuri Prilukov in a dead-heat in the 400 meter freestyle but was soundly thrashed in the 200 IM by Finland's Jani Sievinen, who held the long course WR in this event from 1994 until this summer and still owns a share of the short course version.
In the 400 free, the Czech Republic's Kvetoslav Svoboda went out hard, turning first at 100 meters (53.55) and 200 meters (1:49.87). But Rosolino went with the speeding Czech, overtaking him at the 275 meter turn. The Italian forged ahead, carving a one-second lead over a sprinting Prilukov at 300 meters and just under a second at 350, with Svoboda fading. But Prilukov reached deep down and split 25.97 seconds for the final 50, earning a tie with Rosolino. Svoboda took third in 3:42.39.
"Yuri was very fast in the last meters. I saw him coming nearer and nearer,
put my head down and gave it everything," said Rosolino.
Sievinen, the short-course world champion, retained his 200 medley title in
a championship record 1:55.40 — 7-hundredths under his own former CR — but he had come to Dublin hoping to break the almost 10-year-old world record of 1:54.65 he shares with Hungary's Attila Czene.
"Today was not the right day. I didn't feel too good," said the
29-year-old Sievinen. Olympic champion Rosolino had to settle for silver in 1:56.70 while Slovewnia's Peter Mankoc was third in 1:57.03.
Germany's wins came from former South African Sarah Poewe, who ended the
three-year reign of Sweden's Emma Igelstrom in the women's 50 meter breaststroke with a CR 30.40, and the men's 200m medley relay team of Thomas Rupprath, Mark Warnecke, Fabian Friedrich and Carsten
Dehmlow, who set a world best time of 1:34.46 in the rarely swum event.
Hungary's Eva Risztov took command of the women's 200m fly right from the start and led all the way to win in 2:06.72. Up-and-coming Italian, Francesca Segat, was second four tenths back, while Danish veteran Mette Jacobsen took bronze in 2:07.55. World long course champion and WR-holder Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland was relegated to fourth.
In semifinal action:
Ukraine's Oleg Lisogor qualified first in the 100m breast in 58.82, two-hundredths ahead of Britain's James Gibson, who set a CR 58.49 in prelins. It took 59.99 to make finals, with Ireland's Andrew Bree finishing 11th in 1:00.26.
World record-holder Thomas Rupprath qualified first in the 100 fly in 50.87. It took 52.39 to make it into the final.
Holland's Marleen Veldhuis, who has been HOT lately, took the #1 spot in the women's 100m free in 53.41, 11-hundredths ahead of Germany's Sandra Volker. The cut was 54.00 with Martina Moravcova 10th (54.19) and Britain's Alison Sheppard 13th (54.49).
Long course champion Antje Buschschulte of Germany grabbed the top spot in the women's 100 back in 58.47, with the Czech Republic's Ilona Hlavackova second (59.08). Hlavackova holds the European and Championship records at 547.75 from two years ago. It took 59.63 to make finals.