SA swim star jets in for World Cup

2008-10-16 00:00

City star Darian Townsend jetted into Pietermaritzburg this week for a short visit that will see him race at the World Cup that gets under way at the King’s Park Pool in Durban today.

Townsend will be competing in his first World Cup after enjoying a successful four years on the U.S. collegiate programme, where he achieved an All American Award and went on to win the 200 yards freestyle and 200 yards individual medley at the National tournament, considered to be equivalent to a World Championship event. Now he is turning his attention to the short course metres racing.

“It is very different to short course yards racing, adjusting turns to a different number of strokes,” said Townsend during a training session at the Seals Swimming Club earlier in the week.

“I’m not tapered for this weekend, but will be going out there to do my best and to enjoy it. It’s great that I can start my World Cup campaign in Durban, I really enjoy that pool.”

The Arizona-based star is still trying to complete his degree in the U.S., despite looking ahead to the next four years already, and competing at the World Cups is one of his aims. He will be heading for Stockholm and Berlin in November as well.

The former Maritzburg College pupil tackles the glamorous men’s 100 metres freestyle to kick off his racing this morning, and will be up against former world record holder Stefan Nystrand (Sweden) and Aussie Kyle Richardson. Wesley Gilchrist looks to be his closest South African challenge. Townsend will follow this up with the 100 metres individual medley, where he will line up against Olympic gold medallist from Tunisia, Oussama Melloulli. Again, Gilchrist is likely to be fired up along with Cameron van der Burgh as the South African challenge.

Melloulli is a good all-rounder, having raced the 400 m IM as his main event for many years before turning to the 1 500 m freestyle, where he has the distinguished record of toppling the great Australian Grant Hackett at the Beijing Olympics. He will be competing in the 200 m, 400 m and 1 500 m freestyle, 200 m IM and 400 m IM as well for a busy weekend.

Townsend will need to keep Melloulli at bay if he wants to cash in on the 200 m freestyle and 200 m IM on Saturday.

Breaststroke star Van der Burgh heads the 50 m and 100 m breaststroke events, where he will need to overcome strong challenges from up-and-coming Aussie Christian Sprenger and Russian Sergey Geybel. Sprenger heads the 200m breaststroke where SA star William Diering will be hoping to get the edge. Another sprint star worth seeing is Theresa Alshammar from Sweden, a talented former world record holder in freestyle and butterfly.

Sophie Edington (Australia) and Brazil’s Fabio Molina will challenge the backstroke events where the SA challenge is likely to come from Chanelle van Wyk and Melissa Corfe.

South Africa’s most versatile stars in veteran Mandy Loots, Kathryn Meaklim and Jessica Pengelly will also be involved, while it was confirmed yesterday that Suzaan van Biljon will also be competing.

Durban-based Meaklim (19) was in fine form in the opening leg of the Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil last weekend, in taking the honours in the 400 m freestyle in four minutes 14.95 secs, the 800 m freestyle in 8:49.76 and the 400 m IM in 4:38.11.

Mandy Loots took the 200 m butterfly win, clocking 2:09.78, with Meaklim next best in 2:10.92.

The noticeable absentees are Olympians Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns and Gerhard Zandberg.

The heats get under way at 10 am and 5 pm each day.

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