South African Olympic Trials, Day 4: Neethling, Schoeman Swim 48s in the 100m Freestyle Semifinals

By Neville Smith

DURBAN, South Africa, April 19. DAY Four of the Telkom South African Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials promised much excitement as a near capacity crowd turned out at the Kings park pool in Durban.

The 100m butterfly finals got matters underway after a ten-minute delay due to a light failure over the main pool.

The ladies’ event was going to be a tough call on all competitors out to make the Olympic QT of 59.67 but this seemed to make all contenders more determined as Renate du Plessis (WP) had the best start and held a slight advantage over the field going into the turn.

Liza-Mari Retief (CGA), Lauren Sparg (KZN) and Mandy Loots (CGA) were all in close attendance as it seemed that duPlessis was again going to upset the formbook with a stunning victory.

The diminutive Gauteng flyer Mandy Loots dug deep and with about 12m to go edged past duPlessis’ shoulder and drew level with the Western Province ace.

Extremely vocal team support had the desired effect on both girls as they lunged for the wall, but it was Loots who claimed the title in 1:00.97 ahead of a game duPlessis who had to settle for silver with a 1:01.12.

Liza-Mari Retief won bronze in a time of 1:02.13 ahead of a game Lauren Sparg (1:02.47)

Roland Schoeman withdrew from the men’s event, which was a disappointment, but he had done the business and had the all-important 100m freestyle semi later in the evening.

This opened the field a tad.

The powerful Eugene Botes (KZN) headed the field off the blocks and into the turn. Lyndon Ferns (NTS) was in close attendance as was Fouche Venter (Bo) and stalwart Theo Verster (CGA).

Botes powered off the wall but Ferns hunted him down rapidly and the game was on. Botes dug deep as Verster came into the picture but Ferns had his nose in front and wasn’t about to relinquish the title.

Ferns was a tad disappointed with his effort of 54.32 — well off the Olympic QT of 53.49 but still a fine effort. Hanging tough is not something new for Theo Verster as the stalwart had the fastest back 50 of 27.49 to slip into the silver position in a time of 54.64 denying Botes who posted a 54.66.

Fouche Venter hung on well and recorded a 54.82 to finish in fourth place.

The 200m-breastroke finals followed.

Ingrid Haiden (WP) headed the pack from the gun and into the first turn with Tamaryn Laubscher (NTS) in close attendance. Ronwyn Roper (KZN) was willing while the diminutive Jean-Marie Neethling (FS)) was making a determined effort to keep in touch with her more illustrious competitors.

Laubscher made her move with about 105 m to go attacked the wall and came out of the turn in the lead. Haiden responded, but Laubscher held the advantage going into the final turn.

Haiden responded well to the challenge and edged closer to Laubscher who maintained a fluid stroke to claim victory in a time of 2:32.64 ahead of the game Province swimmer who had to settle for silver with a 2:32.91.

Bronze went to the promising Ronwyn Roper in 2:35.16 while Neethling was a clear fourth place finisher in a credible 2:37.11 for the 13 year-old.

The men’s event saw a determined Neil Versveld throw down the gauntlet to the field when he charged off the blocks to hold sway in the event for 150m.

Greg Owen (CGA) and Terence Parkin (KZN) matched each other stroke for stoke, surging and responding to one another while the rest of the field tried valiantly to stay in touch.

Both hunted Versveld down and the final 50 saw Parkin turn on the gas demolishing the field with a 2:15.31 — off the Olympic QT of 2:14.20 but a satisfying effort nontheless. Owen claimed the silver with a time of 2:16.66 edging the game Versveld (2:16.67) by the narrowest of margins.

The 50m backstroke finals promised much and proved to be closely contested.

The ladies’ event saw Charlene Wittstock (CGA) battle it out with a determined Renate duPlessis (WP) for top honors with the blonde Gutenger claiming the title in a time of 29.36.

DuPlessis had to again settle for silver with a time of 29.55 while Monique Malan (KZN) did well to claim bronze in a time of 30.18 ahead of her more illustrious training partner Romina Armellini (CGA) (30.23) and Romy Altman (WP) (30.42).

The men’s event was always going to be a battle for the minor placing with FINA World Champs bronze medallist Gerhard Zandberg (NTS) in great shape and in awesome form.

Challenged by the Western Province duo of Simon Thirsk and Jon Hugo off the wall, Zandberg was in no mood to mess about and was a clear winner with 20m to go. His 25.28 was off the national mark of 25.07set at Barcelona last year, but still a fine effort.

Thirsk settled for silver in a time of 26.63 while Hugo managed to claim bronze convincingly with a time of 26.92.

The 200m Individual Medley semifinals were next up.

The ladies’ event saw no surprises as Tammy Laubscher headed up the field with a 2:20.35 ahead of Suzaan van Biljon (NTS) (2:23.06), Candice Little (CGA) (2:23.19) and the promising 13 year-old Christy Lategan (NW) (2:23.96).

The winner tomorrow night will definitely come from this group with no upsets likely.

The men’s event will see Terence Parkin (KZN) start as the top seed after a convincing effort in which he posted a 2:05.27. Challengers will come from stalwart Theo Verster (CGA) who looked at ease in posting a 2:07.16 while Jeff Norton must surely be in with a chance after his 2:08.16. Hungarian Peter Hos (NTS) (2:09.85) and the up-and-coming Rohan Jacobs (KZN) (2:10.57) might find the gas beyond them, but PB’s should be the order of the day.

The Mixed disability 200m Individual medley saw a further five athletes’ record Paralympic qualifying times.

The event was won by Craig Groenewald (CGA) (SM14).

Veteran Tadhg Slattery (CGA) (SM6), Handri de Beer (NTS) (SM13), Cornelia Fowler (KZN) (SM14) and Leanne Sterrenberg (WP) (SM14) posted the QT.

The men’s 100m freestyle saw the Ryk and Roland show once again with both journeyman posting Olympic QTs. Neethling will go into tomorrow night’s final as the top seed. His time of 48.76 was well under the standard of 49.66 as was Schoeman’s effort of 48.83.

Darian Townsend (KZN) with a 49.80 was just off the standard while veteran national water polo player, Karl Thaning (WP) has kept his hopes alive. The 26 year old managed a 50.21 ahead of Lyndon Ferns (50.48), Dominik Meichtry (50.54), veteran Nick Folker (50.57 and the talented Gerhard Zandberg (50.93).

Tomorrow night will seethe assembly of the fastest locally assembled 100m swimmers for some time. It’s sure to be a crackerjack affair.