More swim records for SA as hockey men struggle

2008-08-14 00:00

Darian Townsend once again proved his massive potential at the Olympics’ Water Cube in Beijing last night.

The Pietermaritzburg swimmer sliced over a second off his national and continental record in the 200m individual medley to qualify for today’s semi-final.

Townsend admitted afterwards that much of his focus has been on the 100m freestyle and his role in the relay squad rather than on the individual medley. But swimming in the same heat as American swimming sensation Michael Phelps spurred him on to his best time of 1:59,22.

‘I’m very happy with that. I didn’t really know what to expect just because I hadn’t done a whole lot of IM training in the last couple of weeks,” he said after the race, which was won by Phelps in 1:58,65.

‘I think swimming with Michael in the last heat there definitely helped. It pushed me to that best time,” added Townsend, who after today’s semi-final will be hoping to be handed the task of anchoring the 4x100m medley relay team.

The evening session saw two other SA swimmers bettering national and continental records. Lize-Mari Retief just failed to qualify for the 100m freestyle semi-final, but her time of 55,17 seconds did eclipse one of SA swimming’s longest-standing records. The previous record of 55,19 was set by Helene Muller back in 2000 for sixth in the Sydney final, where Retief was eliminated in the first round.

“I was aiming for the record, so I am happy with that,” she said. “This Olympics has been unbelievably fast. We’ve seen world records tumble: not just one person, but two or three.”

Another swimmer hoping to do even better is George du Rand — the country’s other record-breaker. Du Rand won his 200m backstroke heat in a time of 1:58,62 to better his own national and continental mark.

“I’m happy with the best time, but I was actually hoping for a bit faster. It was a bit close to get through to the semis,’”he said. “I didn’t pace my race as well as I should have. I got a bit too excited in the beginning and I paid the price towards the end. But I’ve got another chance now.”

Also making her way through to today’s semi- final was Suzaan van Biljon. The Pretoria swimmer clocked 2:25,51 for third spot in the 200 m breaststroke heat.

Archer Calvin Hartley lost his first-round match against Cuban Carlos Stevens, but only after a sudden death shoot-off.

Durban-based Hartley led until Stevens equalised, hitting the bull with his 11th arrow, and added another with his final arrow. Hartley forced the tie with his only bull of the match. The Cuban found another bull on the second arrow of the shoot-out to secure the win.

“In archery, it’s all about bulls if you want to win — shooting nines you will never win, but by forcing the sudden death, I proved to myself that I can handle the pressure,” said Hartley, who is in his first Olympics.

Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara won the two-lap 47,3km time trial outside Beijing. South Africa’s David George, who pulled out of Sunday’s road cycle when the peleton reached the multiple hilly laps at the Great Wall, did well to finish 31st overall.

South African hockey took another dent to its image yesterday when the men’s side went down to Australia 10-0.

“We knew our first two games would be tough, coming in against Netherlands and Australia, but we didn’t anticipate today’s score,” said team coach Gregg Clark. “We did not give our game plan a chance. We got out what we put in, unfortunately.”

This drubbing puts the team firmly at the bottom of the pool table with a 15-goal deficit, and both the South African men and women’s sides have the dubious honour of being the only teams who have yet to score a goal in the competition.

Cyprian Ngidi and Cameron McIntosh finished the first double canoe slalom run 24,14 seconds behind Slovakian doubles Peter and Pavol Hochschorner, but by missing a gate on the second run, for which they took a 52 seconds penalty, they finished the day 90,47 seconds adrift for 12th and last place.

Siboniso Cele also finished last by a massive margin in the singles slalom earlier in the week.

“I am happy that the guys did well — it was a massive experience for them. In South Africa they only get river experience, but on these international courses the flow rates are substantially higher, which makes it considerably harder. The guys need much more exposure on the European and international circuit,” said canoeing team manager Artwell Mhlophe on the performance of the slalom canoeists.

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