Ryk clocks his best time - not good enough for medal

2000-09-24 07:57

Sydney - South African distance star Ryk Neethling swam his fastest mile on Saturday, but it was too slow for an Olympic medal in the quickest-ever 1 500m freestyle race, where the pace was set by locals Grant Hackett and Kieren Perkins.

SA's women suffered the same fate in the 4x100m medley relay, posting an African record but finishing only fifth.

Neethling, after breaking his continental mark with a 15 min 00.48 secs, declared his intention to shift his focus to the shorter events in a bid to fulfil his dream of Olympic silverware.

"For the next two years, I'm going to concentrate on the 100m and 200m," said the psychology and business student at the University of Arizona, who also owns the African 400m and 200m marks as well as the SA 100m record.

"I've been swimming really fast without speed work. I'll see how it goes. If it doesn't work out I can go back to the mile.

"I have a dream to win an Olympic medal," added Neethling, who finished fifth in the 1 500m in Atlanta four years ago, although he has won mile silver medals at other premier events, like the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Championships.

Reigning world champion Hackett won in 14:48.33. Perkins, Olympic winner in '92 and '96, claimed silver in 14:53.59, followed by American Chris Thompson (14:56.81) and Russia's Alexei Filipets (14:56.88).

Neethling said he was happy with his time.

"Obviously I would have wanted to get a medal for South Africa ... but any time you get a personal best you have to be satisfied...

"Low 14:50s was my goal," admitted the 22-year-old, who was inspired by some 100 SA fan-mail letters he received the night before.

"That time would have been good enough, but unfortunately it didn't happen."

The women's foursome went faster than the side that finished fourth in Atlanta - and that featured double gold medallist Penny Heyns and backstroke bronze medallist Marianne Kriel, both of whom have since retired from international competition.

Apart from a quick swim by Sarah Poewe in the second breaststroke leg where she took her side from seventh place to third, SA were always just short.

They clocked 4:05.15 - 99-hundredths of second behind bronze medallists Japan.

The US won in a new world record time of 3:58.30 followed by Australia in 4:01.59.

Saturday was the final day of the swimming, where SA have won two medals in the past week - Penny Heyns's 100m breaststroke bronze and Terence Parkin's 200m breaststroke silver. - Sapa