/ 21 August 2006

SA swimmer strikes gold in Canada

Another two world records lit up the final night of the Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, Canada on Sunday. But it was also a night in which Suzaan van Biljon bagged South Africa’s first gold medal of the competition.

Michael Phelps was the first to break his own world mark, set in 2003, in the 200m individual medley after reaching the wall in 1:55,84.

And his American teammate Brendan Hansen was next, also bettering his own world mark (set earlier this month) in winning the 200m breaststroke in 2:08,50.

Meanwhile, having gone out hard at the start, Van Biljon led for the whole of the women’s 200m breaststroke and just managed to stave off a strong challenge from Japan’s Asami Kitagawa in the final 50m, winning in a time of 2:26,36.

”I haven’t been feeling great the whole of this meet so I’m just happy with the win tonight,” she said after the race, as the crowd were finally given a break from hearing the United States and Japanese national anthems.

Van Biljon’s teammates, William Diering (2:13,32) and Neil Versveld (2:15,50), finished seventh and eighth in the men’s event.

Earlier in the evening, Roland Schoeman had gone head to head with Cullen Jones in the 50m freestyle. Jones was part of the US team that broke South Africa’s world 4x100m freestyle relay record on Saturday and in so doing became the first African American to hold a swimming world record.

The American just edged out Schoeman, finishing in 21,84 seconds, so eclipsing South African swimmer Brendon Dedekind’s championship record of 22,06 set in Sydney in 1999. Schoeman took silver in 22,12 with Lyndon Ferns again just missing out on a podium place, finishing fourth in 22,42 while Gerhard Zandberg swam 23,15 to finish sixth in the B final.

”In the next few years I am looking to put on some meat and muscle on these bones and see if I can scare some people,” reckoned a beaming Jones after the race.

South Africa’s 800m freestyle silver medallist Troyden Prinsloo led early on in the 1500m freestyle but could eventually only manage seventh place after finishing in 15:19,25. Korea’s Tae Hwan Park won the race in 15:06,11.

Schoeman, Ferns, Zandberg and Diering were all back in action for the 4x100m medley relay, the last event of the competition, where they finished fifth in 3:40,08, with the Americans winning in a championship record of 3:31,79.

As the curtain came down on the Pan Pacific Championships, a total of six world records and 30 championship records had been broken, with the South African team heading back home with one gold, two silvers and a bronze medal, placing them sixth on the medal table.

Positions: 1 United States (24 gold, 16 silver, 4 bronze), 2 Japan (3 gold, 8 silver, 13 bronze), 3 Australia (2 gold, 3 silver, 11 bronze), 4 Canada (2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze), 5 Korea (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze), 6 South Africa (1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze), 7 China (1 silver, 1 bronze), 8 Brazil (2 bronze). — Sapa