South African Championships Get Rolling

DURBAN, South Africa, April 10. A pair of South African and African records were set Tuesday during the first day of action at the Telkom South African National Championships. Leading the way was Wendy Trott, who clocked a mark of 4:12.87 in the 400 freestyle to better the 4:13.98 effort she produced at the World Championships in Melbourne late last month. Melissa Corfe followed in 4:15.56.

The other record was courtesy of George du Rand in the semifinal round of the 200 butterfly. Du Rand checked in with a time of 2:00.41 to lower the seven-year-old standard of Theo Verster, which was 2:00.90. In the other final, Riaan Schoeman prevailed in the men's 400 free with an effort of 3:55.66. He was easily clear of the 4:00.07 of John Ellis, the second-place finisher.

In other action, Ryk Neethling and Gerhard Zandberg went 22.64 and 22.95 in the semifinals of the 50 freestyle while Cameron van der Burgh was tops in the semifinals of the 100 breast, behind an effort of 1:02.16. Van der Burgh was the bronze medalist in the 50 breast at the World Champs. Suzaan van Biljon topped the 100 breast semifinals for the women in 1:10.56.

The meet is missing several big names, most notably Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend, 75 percent of the 400 free relay that won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The other member was Neethling. Schoeman does not have the financial means to travel to the meet after funding the majority of his trip to the World Champs while Ferns and Townsend are attending classes at the University of Arizona. Taking more time away from school was not a possibility.

Despite the good reasons for their absences, Schoeman, Ferns and Townsend are likely to be left off South Africa's Olympic preparation squad because they are not taking part in the meet. They will also be without financial aid, which is used for training purposes The men will have the chance to qualify for the Beijing Olympics next year, but Swimming South Africa is clearly penalizing the athletes who have the greatest chance of winning a medal for their country in China.