By Craig Lord
ANTWERP, BELGIUM, Dec. 15. THE billboards and TV stations had it scheduled as the highlight: 100m
freestyle, Pieter van den Hoogenband aims for world record in race with Stefan Nystrand at the European Short Course Championships.
In the end, the blue ribbon event in which the Swede beat the Flying Dutchman in a championships record of 47.15 seconds was not the most sensational race of the
That came in the 400m freestyle won by Anja Carnan. Anja who? Well you might ask. Carnan is the 16-year-old sensation setting these championships alight. Having finished second to Flavia Rigamonti in 8:20 over 800 meters freestyle, the Slovenian, yet again swimming in an outside lane, took on the continent's best over 400 meters and got the better of a Ukrainian who is not used to being beaten, namely Yana Klochkova.
Their times were 4:02.72 for Carnan, nowhere in the world rankings last year but now the sixth fastest ever and fastest this year, and 4:02.79 for Klochkova, a 1.5 second improvement on her previous best. Third was the unfortunate Russian, Irina Oufimtseva, who in any other year would have been the toast of the championships with times of 4:05.68 over 400m and 8:23 over 800m, but found herself outclassed by women who
appeared to be treating the European winter festival as though it were a world championship.
By virtue of the fact that her's was an Olympic distance and a final, Carnan even upstaged her teammate Peter Mankoc, 23, who set the only world
record of the day, of 52.63 seconds in the semi-finals of the 100m medley, the time inside that set by Neil Walker at the World Short Course Championships in Athens 2000.
Ilona Hlavackova, of the Czech Republic erased absent German Sandra Voelker from the record books by setting a European record of 27.06sec to win the 50 meter backstroke by a wide margin over Finland's Anu Koivisto
(27.75). The 24-year-old Czech had already taken Voelker's 100m standard away from her in Antwerp.
But she was not the revelation at the top end of the age scale to counterbalance Carnan's breakthrough. That honor went to the 1991 world long-course 1,500m freestyle champion, Jorg Hoffmann, of Germany, who in
the midst of his second comeback, if your correspondent has not lost count, seized another championship title, in 14:41.20 at the age of 31,
over Russian Alexei Filipets's 14:41.98 in a field of rivals some 10 years younger than him. Third was 20-year-old Frenchman Nocolas Rostoucher in 14:47.47.
Championship records continue to fall like leaves off an autumn tree. Nystrand's 47.15sec victory over Van den Hoogenband's 47.42 shaved just 0.01 off the standard that had stood to his Swedish teammate Lars
Frolander since the championships were held in Lisbon two years ago. However, Alexander Popov's 46.74sec remains an elusive world record.
In the absence of recent world record breaker over 200m butterfly Thomas Rupprath, of Germany, who opted to concentrate on the semi-finals of the 100m backstroke, James Hickman, of Britain, made hay to set a championship record in the butterfly final of
1:52.93sec. In a tight race, Denis Silantiev was second in 1:53.34, with Anatoli Poliakov third in
1:53.54. Hickman, whose father died in the winter before the Olympic Games, marking the start of a serious deterioration in the swimmer's form, declared himself ready to resume his international career.
Martina Moravcova, of Slovakia, established a championship record of 1:00.16 to win the 100m individual medley, while the men's 50m breastroke final
produced a near-miss as Oleg Lisogor, of Ukraine, beat Mark Warnecke, of Germany, but failed to take Warnecke's world record by just 0.01, his winning time 26.71sec to Warnecke's 26.75sec for silver and Britain's Darren Mew third in a Commonwealth record of 26.85sec.
The same excrutiating margin, 0.01sec, kept Sweden's Theres Alshammar, Emma Igelstrom, Anna-Karin Kammerling and Johanna Sjoberg away from the
world best time as they won the 4 x 50m medley relay in 1:48.32sec.
Earlier in the session, Igelstrom suffered the agony of establishing what would have been European record of 1:06.66 in her semi-final of the 100m breaststroke only to find herself disqualified for a dolphin kick out of two of the turns.
European Short Course Championships
DAY THREE: Dec. 15, 2001
25 meter pool
Women's 400 meter freestyle
1. Anja Carnan (SLO) 4:02.72
2. Yana Klochkova (UKR) 4:02.79
3. Irina Oufimtseva (RUS) 4:05.68
Women's 100 meters individual medley
1. Martina Moravcova (SVK) 1:00.16
2. Alenka Kejzar (SLO) 1:00.90
3. Oxana Verevka (RUS) 1:01.92
Men's 1,500 meter freestyle
1. Jorg Hoffman (GER) 14:41.20
2. Alexei Filipets (RUS) 14:41.98
3. Nicolas Rostoucher (FRA) 14:47.47
Men's 200 meter butterfly
1. James Hickman (GBR) 1:52.93
2. Denys Sylantyev (UKR) 1:53.34
3. Anatoli Poliakov (RUS) 1:53.54
Men's 100 meter freestyle
1. Stefan Nystrand (SWE) 47.15
2. Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED) 47.42
3. Romain Barnier (FRA) 47.53