Embracing glory

2008-03-29 00:00

While the men will be out to stake a claim for Olympic representation in Beijing in Durban next week, South Africa’s top women will be in similar waters as they aim to either repeat the already earned Olympic Qualifying Times, or go just that little faster to secure the time.

Young Jessica Pengelly’s performances in the 400 metres IM have really given her the biggest of margins to play with. Having clocked a remarkable 4:41,94 earlier this year, she is well under the mark of 4:45,08.

Alongside her is Kathryn Meaklim, who has also dipped under this OQT, and both have other opportunities to get more times behind them.

But it will be arch-rivals Wendy Trott and Melissa Corfe who get the trials under way with the 400 metres freestyle. They have traded SA records between them, with Corfe the current holder on 4:11,66 — but the race will involve possibly both getting under the OQT of 4:11,26 on the opening day.

Corfe will also aim at the 200 metres backstroke afterwards where, along with the versatile Pengelly, the QT of 2:12,73 is certainly within their reach.

Adding to their challenge will be Suzaan van Biljon, aiming to get her first QT out of the way in the 100 m breaststroke. Despite not showing the same form this season, she has matured and knows what is required to get under the 1:09,01 mark on Wednesday.

A lot will also be set up by ace sprinter Lize-Mari Retief, who opens the championships with the 50 metres freestyle. Set a target of 25,43 sec to qualify, Retief is the only one perhaps even capable of breaking the 26 second barrier — but the QT means a new SA record must fall too.

Then we also have the expected showdown between the top three 200 metres butterfly swimmers. Veteran Mandy Loots wants the title again at 29 years old, and really wants to complete her illustrious swimming career by competing in Beijing.

The OQT is at 2:10,84 and Loots heads by a fraction on 2:11,10 from the 18 year olds Meaklim and Keri Shaw on 2:11,19 and 2:11,44 respectively. This race will certainly be worth watching.

In the 100 metres event, Retief and Shaw share the top times so far under the OQT of 59,35sec, clocking 59,17sec. Loots is on 59,52sec and Elzanne Werth on 1:00,61 — so expect another great race from these four.

Van Biljon is the reigning champion over 200 metres breaststroke where the 2:28,21 QT has been achieved before. But this time, she is relegated into the second seed position by 12-year-old sensation, Jessica Liss.

What is remarkable is that she is so much smaller than her opposition, yet she has clocked up a fast 2:29,70 within the last month to come so close to the QT.

Pengelly and Meaklim feature here too, and the nature of this event looks set to change once again.

Corfe and Trott will be at it again as the week progresses in the 200 metres freestyle. Joining them will be another rising star from the Arizona ranks under Busch, Leone Vorster. Chasing a time of 1:59,29 will be tough, but breaking the two minutes barrier is a definite possibility.

The 100 metres freestyle at the end will see Corfe up against Retief and Vorster with possible challenges coming from Liezl Burger, Trudi Maree and Elzanne Werth again. The time to chase here is a lot tougher at 55,24sec.

Again, the top ladies come together over the 200 metres IM, where Pengelly heads the list with a 2:16,41. The OQT is 2:15,27 — tough, but an achieveable goal when the likes of Meaklim, Loots and Van Biljon are next to each other. The stage is set for the best national championships ever — the rest is up to the swimmers.

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