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07 Apr 2008 09:09
The Telkom South African National Aquatic Championships came to a thrilling climax at the Kings Park Aquatic Centre in Durban on Sunday evening with an unprecedented 20 swimmers posting Olympic “A” qualifying times.
It was a fitting ending to a sensational Olympic trial for the country’s swimmers when one considers that only seven athletes travelled to Athens in 2004.
A time trial for the 4x200m freestyle relay got matters under way. The quartet of Jean Basson, Darian Townsend, Jasper Venter and Sebastian Rousseau were tasked with the daunting prospect of securing South Africa’s place in the event in Beijing.
All have had exceptional championships and they did not let the crowd down, posting 7:15,21 to smash the continental mark of 7:35,7 set by Egypt in 2002.
The domestic mark of 7:36,95 was established in 1995 at the All Africa Games in Harare by the South African quartet of Paul Fryer, Mark Jollands, Ryk Neethling and Gary Albertyn.
Leonie Vorster headed the women’s 100m freestyle final in a time of 57,02 seconds ahead of Elzanne Werth (57,75), with Trudi Maree securing the bronze in a time of 58,63.
The 50m breaststroke items were first up and Melbourne 2007 bronze medallist Cameron van den Berg headed a Northern Tigers treble when he claimed the title in a time of 28,02 seconds ahead of teammates Donavan van der Merwe (28,78) and Waldo Kruger (29,42).
In the women’s event, it was Suzaan van Biljon who confirmed her status as South Africa’s premier female breaststroker.
The 50m butterfly was a showdown among exciting athletes who are sure to acquit themselves well on the international stage in the future. Warren Grobbelaar and Neil Watson confirmed their seeding as they headed the bunch into the wall. Grobbelaar had the edge and claimed the title in a time of 24,65 seconds, shading a determined Watson (24,68) with Mario Rankin claiming third in 25,09.
The women’s event was more clear-cut with Elzanne Werth retuning to the pool to claim the fly sprint crown in 27,72 seconds as she turned on the gas over the last 10m, well ahead of Lauren Sparg (27,83), with M Symington (14) from Northern Cape securing the bronze in 28,56.
The men’s 400m individual medley was a crackerjack affair with the promising Riaan Schoeman hoping to repeat his “A” qualifying time that he posted at last year’s World Youth Championships. He had missed the time by 1,4 seconds in the heats and the capacity crowd voiced its support, willing him to an impressive 4:18,02—a mere 0,38 seconds under the qualifying time.
The women’s event produced one of the most exciting finishes seen at the championships as the promising Jessica Pengelly edged out the experienced Kathryn Meaklim. Both girls smashed Pengelly’s domestic mark of 4:41,91. Pengelly (4:41,35) held off Meaklim (4:41,39) well ahead of Jessica Liss whose bronze effort of 4:51,88 was yet another excellent effort by the 12-year-old.
The 100m backstroke saw Gerhard Zandberg claim his place at the Olympic Games when he posted 55,13 seconds. George du Rand secured the silver in a time of 55,43, while the promising Charl van Zyl claimed the bronze in 56,65. The women’s event saw Claire Archibald claim the title in 1:03,49 ahead of Lehesta Kemp (1:04,11) and Karin Prinsloo (1:04,32).
A further time trial followed the women’s 4x100m medley relay with the assembled quartet of Lize-Mari Retief, Melissa Corfe, Suzaan van Biljon and Mandy Loots. Once again the capacity crowd got behind the athletes as they produced a record-breaking effort of 4:03,63, well under the mark set by the South African squad at Manchester in 2002 of 4:05,06.
The final individual event of the championships was the 1Â 500m freestyle, where Heerden Herman (17) shadowed the experienced Troyden Prinsloo in posting 15:17,31, a tad over the “A” qualifying time of 15:13,16, with Prinsloo securing his passage to Beijing with 15:11,22. Third place went to John Ellis with a time of 15:35,24.—Sapa
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