South African Olympic Trials, Day 5: Schoeman Blazes African Record Times of 21.98 and 48.20 for the Freestyle Sprints, Zandberg sets African Mark of 55.44 in the 100 Back

DURBAN, South Africa, April 20. THE penultimate day of the Telkom South African Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials currently underway at the Kings Park Pool in Durban promised much.

Roll on the Ryk and Roland show…or perhaps was it the showdown? The men’s 100m final, the much talked about eliminator for those relay berths at Athens. Would the errors of the past be corrected? Would there be five or six athletes in the squad?

We will know the answers in June. The job at hand was to qualify. The crowd sensed something special and weren’t disappointed.

Schoeman headed the field off the blocks, with Neethling and Townsend in close attendance.

Going into the wall the blonde Northern Tiger held a distinct advantage and coming into the back 50 it was a question as to whether the big guy could dig deep enough to fight back.

Schoeman was fluid, Neethling kicked and Townsend tried his utmost, but Roland was in no mood to take anything except the gold, stopping the clock with a 48,20 — the world's fastest timee this year and a new continental and national mark.

His previous best was a 48,69 set at the Northern Tigers Championships, at altitude in Pretoria during December 2003.

Neethling won the silver in a time of 49,21 once again under the Olympic QT of 49,66 while Townsend settled for bronze in 49,93 a tad off the mark.

The remaining candidates for that Athens relay spot will come from the likes of veteran national water polo player Karl Thaning whose 50,19 placed him fourth while Nick Folkers 50,72 was a tad ahead of Lyndon Ferns who was disappointed with his 50,73, well of his best of 48.99.

The ladies 100m freestyle semi followed.

Lauren Roets (NTS) will go into tomorrow night’s final as the top seed after posting a 56,60 well ahead of Renate du Plessis (WP) who recorded a 58,02. Teammates Rene Mouton (58,25) and Christine Zwiegers (58,45) seem likely contenders with Vanessa van deer Hyde (CGA) in with a chance on 58,90.

The 50m breastroke semis for ladies saw Ziada Jardine (WP) hold sway over her teammates Natalie Burke (33,29) and Ingrid Haiden (33,81) when she headed up the field from heat one with a 33,25.

The CGA trio of Andrea Landau (34,15), Sabrina Meurer (34,44) and veteran Tanya Hildebrand (34,46) were next fastest while Daniella Zaverdinos (WP) (34,49) and Amber Roe (EP) (34,49) make up the balance of the field..

The men’s event saw Chris Stewart (NTS) come out on top after posting a 28,75. Next best was Ian Clutten (WP) who heads a trio of 29ers. Cluttens’ 29,03 was a shade ahead of Greg Owen (CGA) (29,31) and Louis Lotter (NTS) (29,36).
The winner will come from this group tomorrow evening.

The 50m butterfly semis followed.

The diminutive Lize-Mari Retief (CGA) looked very impressive in claiming top spot for tomorrow nights final when she posted a 28,11 ahead of her illustrious training partner Mandy Loots (28,28) and the powerful Renate duPlessis (WP) (28,30).

Likely contenders could come from Elzanne Werth (CGA) (28,69), Donna-Leah Horsfall (KZN) (28,75) and Chanelle van Wyk (WP)(28,80). While never underestimate Charne Gehring (Bo) (28,94) and Lauren Sparg (KZN) (29,11).

It’s going to be a lottery.

The men’s event saw Roland Schoeman claim center stage with a superb 24,01 while the battle for the minor placing will come from Darian Townsend (24,87), Lyndon Ferns (25,02) and the promising Fouche Venter (25,08).

On his day Stephan Ackermann (25,20) would be a serious contender but the likeable Northern Tiger has been out of touch at this event.

In the mixed multi disability event four swimmers posted Paralympic qualifying times.

Nathan Oliver (CGA) (S8) won the event.

The qualifiers are Craig Groenewald (CGA) (S14), Tadhg Slattery (CGA) (S7), David Coates (KZN) (S14) and Leanne Sterrenberg (WP) (S14).

The 200m individual medley finals followed with Candice Little from CGA heading the field for the first 100m with a determined Erna Wadermeyer in close attendance.

Northern Tigers breastroke specialists Tammy Laubscher and Suzaan van Biljon hunted the duo down with Laubscher claiming the advantage coming off the final turn.

Little dug deep but Laubscher had it sewn up with 10m to go and claimed victory in a time of 2:20,82 ahead of a determined a fast finishing Wadermeyer who was delighted with her silver (2:21,95) while Little had to be content with third place and the bronze in a time of 2:23,05.

In the men’s event things looked pretty even at the 100m mark but a massive 34,80 over the breastroke leg saw Terence Parkin position himself for a convincing victory in a time of 2:04,38 with stalwart Theo Verster settling for silver with a time of 2:05,75.

Jeff Norton headed the pack for the minor placing recording a time of 2:08,34.

The 1500m freestyle for woman saw Melissa Corfe slash a massive 12,98 seconds off her continental mark when she swam from the front to post a 16:52,00 to establish a new mark.

The battle for the minor placing was intense as the 14 year old Wendy Trott once again showed determination to claim silver in a time of 17:11,72 to establish a new national age group record. Trott won the 800m final last night in the absence of Corfe.

Crowd favorite Natalie duToit posted a 17:17,43 and will now shift her focus to the Para Olympics, which follow the summer games in Athens in August.

The men’s 100m backstroke was sensational.

Gerhard Zandberg (NTS) posted the fastest time ever swum on the African continent when he slashed a full ,20 off his mark of 55,64 that was established at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona in July 2003, during heat 2.

His time was 55,44 and ,19 under the Olympic QT. This unassuming giant of a man will surely sleep well tonight.

Contenders for tomorrow nights final will come from George duRand (FS) (57,73), Simon Thirsk (WP) (57,60), Jeff Norton (KZN) (58,09) while the explosive Garreth McGee (CGA) (58,86) despite being lucky to have made the final is always capable of staging an upset.

Just to add the cherry on the top, Roland Schoeman headed the Northern Tigers 4 x 50m freestyle squad with a continental record 21,98 — his second global #1 swim for 2004 — for the leadoff leg. The man is on fire. Roll on Athens.

The meet concludes on Wednesday.

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