SA swimmers sink in tough day

2000-09-21 20:19

Sydney - South African swim sprinters Brendon Dedekind and Roland Schoeman failed in their bid to qualify for the Olympic 50m freestyle final, both falling short in their semifinals on Thursday.

In other action, Helene Muller clocked her fourth national record from her fifth swim, and Cape Town teenager Sarah Poewe posted her second best time to finish sixth in the 200m breaststroke.

Dedekind touched in 22.39 seconds - the ninth best on the evening, or just 0.04 seconds short of earning a spot in Friday's race to determine the fastest swimmer in the world.

Schoeman, owner of the 22.04 African record, managed only 22.41.

The pair last year cracked the world's two best times.

While Schoeman ignored the press after his effort, the ever-approachable Dedekind stopped to talk.

"I'm not disappointed because I know that I did everything possible to win.

"I want to apologise to everyone back home who want us to get more medals. So do we," he added with a smile.

"I know I can hang the guys on any day, but today was not my day. That's why I swim the 50m," said the United States-based electrical engineer, who won gold at the Pan Pacific Championships in the same pool last year.

American Gary Hall Jr, who finished second to Dedekind at Pan Pacs, was the fastest on the evening in 22.07.

Next best were flying Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenbrand (22.11), American Anthony Ervin (22.13) and Russia's Alexander Popov, who holds the 21.64 world record and is looking to win his third consecutive Olympic 50m gold.

Dedekind plans to return to South Africa for a lengthy holiday, with some extreme sports in mind.

"I want to do some scuba diving, some bungee jumping, things like that. I haven't had a holiday in basically four years, so I'm going to take some time off.

"I'll get back in the pool when I'm ready."

Muller finished sixth in the women's 100m freestyle final in a continental record of 55.19 seconds, adding to her two 100m and one 200m SA marks.

"I'm so happy I made the final and I'm very happy I with my times. Who would have thought? Helene Muller, boerkind from Potchefstroom," laughed the Nebraska-based student, who will compete in the 50m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay heats on Friday.

"My focus is on the relay," said Muller, who swam the same event in Atlanta four years ago when SA finished fourth.

"If I make it in the 50m, then I make it. If I don't, then whoop-de-doo."

Poewe, who just missed out on a bronze medal with her fourth place in the 100m breaststroke on Monday, was happy with her 2:25.72.

"It's still my first Olympics," said the blonde 17-year-old, who led into the first turn, was in second at halfway and in sixth place after 150m.

"I'm happy, it's one of my best times," added Poewe, whose 2:25.54 personal best in Wednesday's semifinals would not have improved her final position on Thursday.

"It was a tough race, some people came out of nowhere."

Hungarian Agnes Kovacs won in 2:24.35, followed by Americans Kristy Kowal (2:24.56) and Amanda Beard (2:25.35).

Charlene Wittstock was the 14th best in the women's 200m backstroke semifinals, touching in 2:14.97. - Sapa