SWIMNEWS ONLINE: February 1996 Magazine Articles

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Denham Will Take The Money

Anita Lonsbrough

GELSENKIRCHEN- The Germany team is in the throes of a power struggle between the federation and competitors and the matter was very much at the fore at the Arena Festival, the final round of the World Cup series, which was held in Gelsenkirchen.

The German competitors believe they should have a say as to which swimwear company the federation signs up with. They also believe they should receive some of the contract monies.

Up to the end of 1995, German teams contracted to wear Arena but from January 1, 1996 they wear Speedo. But over the two days of competition the German teams were seen wearing Arena, Speedo, and Adidas.

Missing from the meet was Franziska van Almsick who has a personal contract with Arena. Rumours were rife that she had pulled out because she was being forced to wear Speedo. This was hotly denied by her agent, Werner Koster, who was adamant that Franziska had withdrawn due to a knee injury for which she was receiving treatment. Koster added that Franzie would wear Speedo in Atlanta but firmly believes that if swimmers took the case to a court of law, they would win. In law they might win but on the other hand, a federation would not be obligated to select that competitor.

While Franzie, together with many other top names, were missing, Sandra Volker, GER, seized the opportunity to capture the headlines by equalling the European short course record for the 50 m freestyle of 24.75 held by Franzie. Unfortunately she did not follow it up 24 hours later with a victory in the 100 m backstroke. She was beaten by Denmark's Mette Jacobsen. Mette, the European champion, clocked 1:00.41 to Sandra Volker's 1:01.00. Afterwards Volker tried to explain her defeat. "I know that presently, I'm better in freestyl sprint than in backstroke events. However, I do not really know why. But it was important efor me to compete in a big meet-even though for me short course does not have the importance as in former years."

Whilst one of the big names of Europe was missing another was in action. Alexander Popov, the Russian double Olympic and world champion, comfortably won the 100 m freestyle in 47.48. But all the time one felt he had another gear to move up to if an unexpected challenge appeared. Although his performance as always, looked impressive he was "not really happy with my time. Still, it wasn't too bad as a first preparation for the Olympics in Atlanta. For me the three World Cup meets in Paris, Imperia and Gelsenkirchen have been crucial with regard to the Olympic Games. During the race I didn't pay any attention to the other swimmers." In Atlanta, Popov believes his most serious contenders will be "Brazil's Gustavo Borges, Fernando Scherer, the U.S. athletes and Torsten Spanneberg."

One swimmer he may have overlooked is Britain's Mark Foster, the former world short course champion and record holder, who beat Popov twice over the 50 free. In Imperia Mark came within 0.20 seconds of Popov's world record with a 21.70 for the 50m freestyle. Four days later in Germany, Foster was again ahead by 0.12 seconds when he touched home in 21.80sec.

The Olympic Games often attract competitors out of retirement and this year is no exception. Gelsenkirchen saw the return of Marianne Muis of the Netherlands, and Germany's Stefan Pfeiffer.

Marianne's return was in winning style as she left the field in her wake in the 100 m freestyle. Winning was not enough she explained. "I wanted to improve on my performance of last December (54.25). But I failed with today's 54.51. Since I finished my training as a physiotherapist I can concentrate on my swimming. I hope to qualify for Atlanta."

Stefan's return was not quite so successful as he failed to make the top six in all three of his races-200, 400 and 800 m freestyle. The 30-year-old decided last October to make an attempt to win selection for a fourth Olympics. In the past his eleven medals won at the Olympics Games, World and European Championships have mainly been over the 400 and 1500 m but for Atlanta he will concentrate on the 4x200 m freestyle relay.

Australia always produce something or someone to make the rest of the world sit up and think. Last year it was the underwater swimming of their butterfly girls, this year their breaststroke swimmer-not Phil Rogers, the world short course record holder for both 100 and 200 m, but Helen Denman. Phil failed to win all but one of his three races. On the first day he was fourth to Alexander Dzhaburiya in the 50 m. Alexander's winning time was 27.82 to Phil's 28.08. In the 200 m he was passed on the sprint for home by Russia's Stanislav Lopukhov. This time Phil's 2:09.70 was just 0.38 sec short. Could he make it third time lucky. He did finish in first place but had to share it with Lopukhov. Their time was 59.97. Little was known about Lopukhov even by his own country's journalists, but he certainly made an impression. He even had to pay his own way to Germany as the Russian sleectors did not feel he was good enough. His 200 m time was a personal improvement of some three seconds.

Little known outside of Australia is Helen Denman who won both the 50 and 100 breaststrokes. Her time of 31.04 for the 50 is the second fastest ever recordws and a mere 6/100ths outside the world record set by Xue Han of China at the first of this year's World Cup meets in Hong Kong.

Helen admitted that winning in Germany was easier than making a final in Australia where she competes against the likes of Samantha Riley, the double world short course champion and record holder. Helen also sped to a 1:07.76 in the 100 m. Her 50 m breast time was the best performance of the meet and won her a Honda car. When Helen moved from Perth to Adelaide to continue her swimming training, her mother gave Helen her car. Helen claims "since I was driving around in my mother's car, it is nice to have my own now. But due to transportation problems I think I'll take the money and not the car back to Australia."

Poolside: During the heats of the 800 m freestyle at the Arena Festival, the final World Cup meet of 1996, a new electronic lane counter was used which in due course is expected to replace the hand-operated card system.

The electronic counting mechanism is fixed in the bottom of the pool and at the poolside near the turn as a controlling device. Because of financial reasons the mechanism is still operated by the turning judge and the athlete. The mechanism was invented by Germany's Herbert Stahl who has already applied for a patent. The cost per lane is approximately $1,700 Canadian dollars.

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