World Cup swimming: Mellouli in devastating form

2008-10-19 00:00

Olympic 1 500 metres champion Oussama Mellouli was in devastating form as he bagged another three golds on the final day of the FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup in Durban on Saturday evening.

Mellouli (Tunisia) opened with a close shave with Riaan Schoeman once again, this time in the 1 500 m freestyle. But the California-based star pipped Durbanite Schoeman by a mere 0,09 seconds to clock 15:54,73 shortly before lining up against local man Darian Townsend.

It was another stroke-for-stroke tussle in the 200 m freestyle as Mellouli found enough in himself to edge marginally ahead to win in one minute, 43,62 seconds, pipping local favourite and Olympic star Townsend who clocked a personal best of 1:44,02 with Aussie Kyle Richardson next in 1:45,99.

The Tunisian’s competitive showdown with Townsend continued in the 200 m individual medley, where it was a repeat of their previous finish. Mellouli’s experience at racing at this level showed again as he managed to dig deep on the final few metres to take the honours narrowly in 1:56,73 — Townsend again clocking well under his best in 1:57,18.

“It has been great competing here in Durban at a World Cup for the first time,” said Townsend.

“Racing Oussama and Stefan [Nystrand] will do a lot for my experience and I hope to do better when I head for Europe next month.

“I have been shielded from racing at these meets due to my collegiate commitments for the last four years. Now that I am standing up there racing when there is prize money, it definitely changes a lot,” he added.

Mellouli had a remarkable World Cup, also winning gold in the 400 m individual medley and 400 m freestyle and a silver in the 100 m individual medley on Friday.

But the South African performances to steal the limelight certainly went to Bloemfontein’s George du Rand and the versatile teenager from Somerset West, Jessica Pengelly. Du Rand made up for his decision to withdraw from the 100 m backstroke final the day before by really showing signs of his true potential in the 200 m backstroke.

After breaking the Africa record in the heats of the 100 m backstroke in 51,50 seconds a day earlier, it was pretty clear Du Rand was in excellent form before the 200 m backstroke, probably his best event. It turned out that way in the result as he left his opposition trailing and went almost two seconds under his own Africa and South Africa record, clocking an outstanding 1:51,82. It was just such a pity that while the race was on, few people actually realised how far he was under record pace after the first 50 m already.

“I was definitely after the record,” said Du Rand, “But I did not think I would end up with a time like that. I am really pleased and just hope I can keep the same form at the other meets.”

For Pengelly, after swimming in the shadow of the improved Durbanite Kathryn Meaklim since April, her confidence received a huge boost as she bounced back to edge out her arch-rival in this outing of the 400 metres individual medley. It was typical of so many races over the weekend where Pengelly took the lead in the backstroke section before Meaklim closed the gap in the breaststroke, but a final burst from Pengelly saw her take the gold in a new SA record of 4:30,45.

Coach Santa van Jaarsveld was smiling all the way. “Jessica is so young at this level and is still concentrating on her schooling [she’s only in grade 11], and her results here have been great.”

In fact, Pengelly was the youngest swimmer on the SA team at the Olympics, and no provision was made for her coach to be with her for long periods before Beijing.

Meaklim placed second in 4:30,74 and then followed this up with a determined win in the 200 m breaststroke, clocking 2:24,49 while Pengelly came through for the silver in 2:28,57. Meaklim also took second in the 200 m butterfly, won by veteran Mandy Loots in 2:07,84 – an impressive performance just a fraction outside her Africa mark.

Pretoria based Cameron van der Burgh produced another world class performance in the men’s 100 m breaststroke. Leading from the start, he looked determined to chase the world record mark of 57,47 seconds by the legendary Ed Moses set in 2002, turning ahead of the pace in 26,85 seconds at the 50 m mark. However, one or two shorter strokes saw Van der Burgh hit the pads in 57,99 seconds — just 0,07 seconds off his best, but giving him the confidence to keep that record in his sights for the remaining World Cups.

Final Results

Men:

1500 m freestyle: 1 O Mellouli (Tun) 14:54,73; 2 R Schoeman (SA) 14:54,82; 3 H Heerden (SA) 15:12,61.

200 m freestyle: 1 O Mellouli (Tun) 1:43,62; 2 D Townsend (SA) 1:44,02; 3 K Richardson (Aus) 1:45,99.

100 m breaststroke: 1 C van der Burgh (SA) 57.99; 2 C Spencer (Aus) 58.55; 3 F Lima (Bra) 58.86.

100 m butterfly: 1 G Tune (SA) 52.19; 2 N Watson (SA) 52.59; 3 S (Swe) 52.66.

50 m backstroke: 1 R Bal (US) 23.64; 2 P Marshall (US) 23.73; 3 D Orzechowski (Bra) 24.76.

200 m individual medley: 1 O Mellouli (Tun) 1:56,73; 2 D Townsend (SA) 1:57,18,;3 J Thompson (SA) 1:59,16.

50 m freestyle: 1 S Nystrand (Swe) 21.42; 2 K Richardson (Aus) 22.13; 3 W Gilchrist (SA) 22.19.

200 m backstroke: 1 G du Rand (SA) 1:51,82; 2 E Aleshin (Rus) 1:55,04; 3 Y Lebherz (Ger) 1:56,13.

Women:

100 m freestyle: 1 J Lillhage (Swe) 53.07; 2 M Guehrer (Aus) 54.36; 3 L Burger (SA) 56.95.

50 m breaststroke: 1 S van Biljon (SA) 32.42; 2 C Mower (SA) 32.49; 3 J du Toit (SA) 32.72.

400 m individual medley: 1 J Pengelly (SA) 4:30,45; 2 K Meaklim (SA) 4:30,74; 3 J Staples (SA) 4:42,75.

100 m backstroke: 1 F Molina (Bra) 59.15; 2 M Ingram (NZ) 59.40; 3 S Edington (Aus) 59.50.

200 m butterfly: 1 M Loots (SA) 2:07,84; 2 K Meaklim (SA) 2:11,51; 3 J Staples (Aus) 2:12,39.

400 m freestyle: 1 M Ingram (NZ) 4:05,62; 2 M Corfe (SA) 4:10,33; 3 R Warnes (SA) 4:16,53.

200 m breaststroke: 1 K Meaklim (SA) 2:24,49; 2 J Pengelly (SA) 2:28,57; 3 C Mower (SA) 2:29,32.

100 m individual medley: 1 F Molina (Bra) 1:01,31; 2 J Lillhage (Swe) 1:01,58; 3 M Loots (SA) 1:01,72.

50 m butterfly: 1 M Guehrer (Aus) 25.56; 2 T Alshammar (Swe) 25.80; 3 M Loots (SA) 26.99.

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