For those hungry to win a World Cup title, Espoo
(Jan. 22 - 23) was a good place to be: due to a smaller number of competitors,
points were up for grabs in all categories. Numerous victories claimed by
swimmers not previously ranked in the point standings also served to spread
the points more thinly in the final count.
Finland's own Vesa Hanski gave Ukranian Silantiev
a run for his money in the men's 200 butterfly. The two were tied at the
100 - metre mark, with Silantiev taking a slight lead at the 150 and barely
holding it to the finish. He touched in 1:55.57, with Hanski right behind
Marek Krawczyk of Poland hung on to first place
in the men's breaststroke, winning the 200 in 2:12.9.
The only multiple winners were the Chinese. Strong
off of their Beijing blitz, the small delegation (4 women, 4 men) made its
presence felt on the podium. Tong Mi won her 100 race (1:09.04), while Wei
Guo won the women's 200 freestyle in 1:58.77. Yuanyuan Jia took the women's
50 backstroke in 28.15, and Yan Chen won the women's 200 individual medley
(2:13.9) over Denmark's Britta Vestergaard.
A newcomer to World Cup competition in Espoo was
Leah Martindale of Barbados. The statuesque Martindale holds the Commonwealth
record for the 50 freestyle, and her time of 25.49 earned her fifth place
at the Atlanta Olympics. Her short course time of 24.97 was the fourth fastest
time in the world last year.
Her coach, Anil Roberts, said the decision to come
to the World Cup was motivated by the absence of quality competitions in
the Carribbean. Like fellow islander Sion Brinn of Jamaica, to get good
competition they need to travel.
"Leah did well in Atlanta, but our real problem
before the Games was the lack of competition," said Roberts. "This
is the first time she'll compete so much in season and she's training hard
right through it. Just racing and training."
And, according to Martindale, enjoying it. From Espoo (where she tied for second in the 50 freestyle) she planned to go to Malmö, Glasgow, and Gelsenkirchen, wrapping up her tour in Imperia.