SA swimmers off to Rome

2009-05-10 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG star Darian Townsend completed his final preparations for the World Swimming Championships in Rome at the GC Jolliffe Pool in Pietermaritzburg this week.

Townsend braved slightly colder weather for a few days at home before jetting to the training camp in Europe yesterday where the South African swimmers will need to test the new Arena swimsuits that they will be forced to wear due to the Swimming South Africa sponsorship.

Last week, head coach for Rome Dean Price requested a meeting to iron out some problems that may come their way at the champs — but the meeting did not take place. This is the new era of swimming racing where the suit definitely seems to make a difference. Hopefully the Arena suits that will be supplied will be as good as any of the others on the market that have allowed new boundaries to be set throughout the world. Subsequently, a circular went out this week to all SA swimmers that a fine of €3 000 will be the result of a swimmer not wearing the Arena suit at the champs.

For Townsend, sponsored by Blue Seventy in the United States, the Arena sponsorship with the national federation poses a slight problem in that he could well lose his contract. However, the main concern is that the suits supplied are equivalent to what the opposition will race in and that the swimmers are able to get used to the suits.

Arena have the technical knowledge and have the right suits to oppose the rest, but for our medal prospects, if any, let us hope the best suit is made available as some leading swimmers even opted to miss these World Champs due to the swimsuit controversy.

Townsend will race the 200 m individual medley as his main event as well as the 100 m butterfly and 4 x 100 m freestyle and also 4 x 200 m freestyle relays. “The 4 x 100 m free relay on the first day will give a few of us a chance to race in the Arena suit before our main races,” said Townsend.

Joining Townsend in his challenge will be Seals clubmate Neil Versfeld, who will aim at the 200 m breaststroke final. “The new suits out there have allowed swimmers who were just average swimmers to post times in the top 10 in the world recently,” said Versfeld. “These World Champs are going to be a real eye-opener to see exactly how much the swimsuit can help. I am sure there are going to be a lot of records.”

Both Townsend and Versfeld proved they are in good shape with excellent performances at the recent Speedo Prestige Meet in Durban. Townsend set new Meet records in the 200 m freestyle in 1:48,88 and in the 200 m IM in 1:59,85 while Versfeld clocked a fast 2:12,30 for his record in the 200 m breaststroke.

SA team-mate Lyndon Ferns was also in outstanding form with a 48,15sec dash in the 100 m freestyle and a 51,69sec sprint to set a new South African record in the 100 m butterfly. World Champion Gerhard Zandberg set a new SA mark and African mark in the 50 m backstroke, clocking 24,73sec — but the wearing of two suits is not allowed and ratification of these records is likely to be turned down.

For the local City juniors, three SA Age Group records were broken at the Meet. Young Jamie Reynolds clocked 1:09,05 for her 100 m butterfly to break the girls’ 11 years mark held by Jessica Liss and set in 2007, by 0,62sec. She followed this up by shaving 0,02sec off the 100 m freestyle record held by Lauren Mattheus, set in 2005 with a 1:02,98, and later the same day improved it to 1:02,97 in starting off a relay.

Mark Hunter rose to the occasion and sliced 1,03sec off David Marais’s 2005 SA record for boys 13 years in the 200 m breaststroke. He raced through the 100 m mark in a personal best 1:11,65 to then clock 2:30,77 for the 200 m.

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