By Karien Jonckheere
DURBA, South Africa, April 23. SUZAAN van Biljon put such a mammoth effort into winning her third title at the Telkom South African National Swimming Championships on Saturday that she could barely stand afterward. Although standing on shaky legs after winning the 200 individual medley title, the Pretoria swimmer who turns 18 next week, reckoned: "I don't really train for the IM so I didn't mind if I came first or eighth."
Mandy Loots was leading for much of the race but was caught on the breaststroke leg by 100 and 200 breaststroke champion Van Biljon, who then surged ahead to win in 2:18.45.
"I just didn't have the legs at the end there," admitted Loots, who finished second in 2:19.28.
While Van Biljon was pleased to have the 200 IM title to add to her haul, what she really wants is the 50 breaststroke gold (which is up for grabs on Sunday) to complete her first clean sweep of the national breaststroke events, bringing her overall title total to four at this competition.
Another swimmer who will be hoping for his fourth crown on Sunday will be Gerhard Zandberg. The Commonwealth Games relay gold medallist bagged the 100 freestyle title on Saturday (to add to his 50 freestyle and 50 backstroke golds) and will gunning for glory in the 100 backstroke. In the absence of podium regulars Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman, Zandberg reached the wall ahead of the pack in a time of 50.61 with Shaun Harris second in 51.16 and 200 freestyle champion Jean Basson third in 51.38.
"I feel ok, not too tired. I had a good swim tonight," said Zandberg. "I am training through nationals and I haven't shaved or anything so a 50.6 is really good for me and my coach and I are both really pleased. It's a pity Ryk and them couldn't be here but the competition is still pretty tough. It was a good field. I am planning to swim Mare Nostrum in June and Pan Pacs in August but they're all stepping stones to next year's World Championships in March.”
Meanwhile, it was a three-way battle in the men's 200 individual medley with 23-year-old Stuart Rogers emerging to win his first national title. Rogers staved off a serious challenge from both Byron Fergusson
(second in 2:06.30) and Neil Versveld (third in 2:06.84) and is set to gain more than just a gold medal from his win.
"The men's 200 individual medley has been one of our weak points. But all of our national champions from this meeting will become members of our national squad so that we can assist them," explained national coach Dirk Lange.
Already part of that squad is Cape Town swimmer Wendy Trott who swam to a comfortable victory in the 1500m freestyle on Saturday. Trott finished in a time of 16:49.10 with Bianca Meyer second in 17:15.52 and Natalie du Toit third in 17:20.96.