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International Review: Finland's Hard Is Hard to Beat -- July 3, 2001

JULY 3. SWEDEN and Finland held national championships last weekend in anticipation of the start of the World Championships in a week and-a-half. For the most part the times were relatively flat and both ountries' "Big Guns" basically swam through the competition, but a few events saw records broken.

At Espoo, site of the Finnish Championships, 23-year-old sprinter Jere Hard showed he may be a force to be reckoned with at Fukuoka via prs and national records in the 50-100 frees and 100 fly.

His 50 time was 22.85, breaking his old mark of 22.89 from the prelims at Sydney. In the 100 he won in 50.03 and had never been under 50.5 before.

In the butterfly he went 53.50, breaking his old pr-NR of 53.65 from the Sydney prelims. Hard was European 50 fly champ last year at Helsinki in a national record 23.88, fifth on both the yearly performers' and performances list.

The world record is 23.60 by Australia's Geoff Huegill, Sydney silver medalist in the 100 fly. The European record is 23.68 by Russia's Dennis Pankratov from the Arena Meeting in Mulhouse, France following the Atlanta Olympics, where the Russian won both the 100-200 flys -- the first man to accomplish this feat since Mark Spitz at Munich a quarter-century earlier.

Unfortunately, Father Time has apparently caught up with Pankratov as he failed last weekend to make Russia's World Championship team.

At Sundsvall, Sweden, a coastal city on the Baltic Sea, the Swedes held their summer championship last weekend and -- surprise -- Olympic 100 fly gold medalist Lars Frolander didn't set any records.

He won the 100 free in an easy 50.20, the 50 fly in 24.09 and the 100 fly in a "leisurely" 53.54. His prs in the 100 free-fly are 48.93 and 52.00, both from Sydney, and his best in the 50 fly is 23.96, which earned him a silver at Helsinki behind Hard.

That 100 fly clocking ranks him third all-time in both the performers' and performances lists yet ironically is .04 slower than the Olympic record of 51.96 by Huegill.

How can that be? Easy. Huegill's time came in the semis. At night in the finals he could only manage a 52.22.

With Australian 100 fly world record-holder Michael Klim's status uncertain because of an ankle injury, Frolander would seem to be in a good position to win at Fukuoka, especially after having beaten the Aussies on their "home turf" 10 months ago.

But then wasn't Spitz a lock to win at Mexico City?

In the 200 breaststroke Minnesota's Big 10 champ, Martin Gustavsson, showed he's getting ready to join the Fioravantis, the Moseses and the Hansens of the
swimming world as he clocked a national-record 2:14.49 in the semis. He won the finals in 2:15.09 and also picked up gold in the 100 (1:03.94).

Sprinter Joanna Sjoberg won the 50-100 frees (25.86-56.47) and also the 100 fly (1:00.11). Anna Kammerling went 25.97-1:01.99.

Newcomer Sara Nordenstam won the 200 fly and both IMs in 2:15.64, 2:17.87 and 4:52.35. She was also top qualifier in the 200 breast (2:35.99) but scratched the finals.

Conspicuously absent was double Olympic silver medalist (50-100 frees)Therese Alshammar, who was hospitalized last week with a virus. It is not known whether she will be well enough to swim in Fukuoka and if she does what kind of shape she'll be in.

-- Bill Bell


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