Rush for fast times in PE

2011-04-09 00:00

LEADING South African swimmers converge on the newly-revamped Newton Park Swimming Pool for the National Championships that take place in Port Elizabeth from April 11-16 next week.

While many of the Olympians will be present, a notable absentee will be gold medallist from the infamous men’s 4x100 m freestyle relay from 2004, Lyndon Ferns. The talented sprinter was dependant on the SASCOC funding to continue swimming to 2012 and failed to make the times set last year.

The sprint freestyle events always draw the crowds and it will be left to a duel between Gideon Louw and Graeme Moore in the 100 m dash, while Roland Schoeman and Darian Townsend cannot be written off in a close finish.

Schoeman will always be the champion to topple in the 50 m dash as Louw and Moore challenge.

The 400 m freestyle for men brings together the best lineup ever.

Stalwart Jean Basson, who specialises more over the 200 m, will have to produce something special to regain the number one spot from Mark Randall; but a man closing in over this distance is Heerden Herman who specialises over the 1 500 m freestyle.

The 1 500 m freestyle will provide a close race with the likes of Herman, Randall, Brown and Troyden Prinsloo aiming at the medals.

In the breaststroke events, Cameron van der Burgh — a gold medalist from the 2010 Commonwealth Games — is clearly the man to beat in the 50 and 100 m events. Van der Burgh will be up against Neil Versfeld in both these races, while Versfeld looks the firm favourite in the 200 m event.

The butterfly events will provide more excitement as Schoeman aims to keep his 50 m title, but the 100 m race is up for grabs with the younger Chad le Clos leading the field after an amazing 2010 year.

Neil Watson, Heinrich Alberts, Garth Tune, Darian Townsend, Sebastien Rousseau and Dylan Bosch should also be strong challengers.

The 200 m butterfly sees Le Clos riding high with his Commonwealth success although Rousseau will be hoping to get back to better form over this distance to impress.

The 200 m and 400 m individual medley events are also increasing in competition. Townsend will be looking at a good result in the 200 m IM, but cannot afford any mistakes with Le Clos close by and Bosch, who could go faster.

Riaan Schoeman and Le Clos are likely to mix it up closely in the 400 m IM.

Among the women, there will be tremendous interest in the return of the talented Suzaan van Biljon in the breaststroke events. While the 50 m is not her best race, Van Biljon gets stronger after at least one turn and should put a lot of pressure on the 100 m and 200 m hopefuls.

Ronwyn Roper heads the 100 m breaststroke where Kathryn Meaklim also features — and both will be vying for the 200 m as well. Add Van Biljon, and the whole race changes somewhat. Others who could feature as well are Claire Conlon, Tara Nicholas, Kelly Gunnell, Franko Jonker, Jessica Liss and Taryn MacKenzie.

Leone Vorster will be one to watch over the faster freestyle events while Wendy Trott will take over as it gets longer. Karin Prinsloo has the ability to win the shorter events in the 50 m and 100 m.

But it is Vanessa Mohr, riding high at the moment — especially in the 50 m, 100 m and 200 m butterfly, who will be the one to beat.

As this is also the trials for the 14th Fina World Championships taking place in Shanghai, China, on July 19-23, 2011, fast times are on the cards.

Heats will start at 9.30 am while the finals will begin at 6 pm daily.

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