SWIMNEWS ONLINE: May 1997 Magazine Articles

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Karin Helmstaedt

Friday got under way with the women's 50 freestyle. All the swimmers were fashionably suited in black.

Sandra Všlker (GER), who broke her own European record in the prelims (24.62), was not in danger and touched first after holding off a strong challenge from Jenny Thompson (USA). Defending champion and world record-holder Jingyi Le (CHN) was third.
The winning time was 24.70.

"I am happy about the medal," Sandra Všlker said. "I am not satisfied with the time. I did so much better in the morning. Most important however is that I won!"

European record for Sandra Volker, Germany, in the 50 free
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

A gracious silver medallist Thompson said, "I am very happy that I swam faster than this morning. Of course I am disappointed that I didn't win because that is what I wanted to do. But I am happy for Sandra, it was a good swim."

"I am very satisfied with my third place," Jingyi Le said. "I only began my hard training three months before I came to Gšteborg."

For the first time at a world championship, two black swimmers were in the final: Leah Martindale of Barbados, who finished fifth, and Siobhan Cropper of Trinidad, who finished eighth.

The rowdy crowd of Swedish fans got a treat as a fired-up Patrik Isaksson stole the 100 breaststroke from lane one. He took the lead at the start and led throughout the four lengths, touching for the gold in 59.99. A fast closing Stanislav Lopukhov (RUS) was second in 1:00.05.

Patrik Isaksson waves to fans, after stealing the show in the 100 breaststroke from lane 1
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

"This is more than I dared to hope," Isaksson said. "I thank the fantastic audience for the victory. I went hard from the start and I kept the lead the whole way. Everything in the race was perfect. It was very satisfying to swim under the minute mark."

Silver medallist Stanislav Lopukhov was less impressed. "It is not a good result. My best performance was at the World Cup in Germany." He won in Gelsenkirchen with 59.42.

Germany's Jens Kruppa finished third and said, "I had hoped to be faster. I am not satisfied with bronze."

Kristy Ellem (AUS), the latest in a long line of breaststroke stars from Down Under, did not disappoint. She took the lead early and gradually increased it, winning by a vast three second margin in 2:22.68. Larisa Lacusta (ROM) was second in 2:25.60 and Alicja Peczak (POL) was third in 2:25.62.

"This was my personal best," Kristy Ellem said. "I think everything went well. In fact this is the third best time on the distance ever. I felt confident because I had a good race this morning. I had a good start and I kept it the whole way."

Silver medallist Lacusta said, "I am very happy but I feel a bit tired. It is the first time I have been to a World Championships so I am glad to get a silver - it is a good result for me."

In the men's 400 freestyle, Viking power asserted itself as Jacob Carstensen (DEN) surprised everyone with a come-from-behind win. The favourites, Jorg Hoffmann (GER) and Grant Hackett (AUS), battled for the early lead. After the 200, Chad Carvin, (USA) took the lead, only to have the Dane finish strongest and steal the gold.

Jacob Carstensen, Denmark, 400 freestyle winner
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Carstensen's time was 3:43.44, with Carvin in second (3:43.73) and Hackett in third (3:43.83).

It was an unexpected result. "I am very surprised," Carstensen said. "I thought it went very well all the way. I was hoping for a better time. I didn't expect to win. I just wanted to swim faster than this morning."

Carvin thought he had the gold. "I have never swum short course before so it was a best time. It was a good race but I didn't see Carstensen coming up because I was breathing on the other side. Honestly, I thought I had won."

16-year-old Grant Hackett, the bronze medallist, said, "I am really happy with the swim although I'm a bit disappointed with third place. I'm still really young so I think I've got a lot of strength to build."

When Claudia Poll stood behind the blocks for the 200 freestyle, it was obvious she was ready. She took the lead after the start, increased it with each length and shattered her own world record with a 1:54.17, a second-and-a-half improvement. Then came an unprecedented emotional outburst, as Poll jumped out of the pool to run toward her coach, Francisco Rivas, who stood in the stands, mobile phone and video camera in hand. The two embraced for several minutes while the crowd applauded. Years of work, including an Olympic gold, have cemented their relationship. Poll then gleefully returned to the poolside and acknowledged the crowd.

Claudia Poll hugs coach Francisco Rivas after winning the 200 free
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

"I knew I could do it about three weeks ago because I was doing under 2 minutes in training," she said. "My coach knew it earlier, but I didn't believe him right away!"

When asked about her plans for the following day's 400 freestyle, she replied with a grin, "I'll see how I wake up tomorrow, how my body reacts to a 1:54.17!"

Last summer in Atlanta, the Cuban backstrokers took silver and bronze in the 100 backstroke; when asked if this would make them sport heroes back home, Neisser Bent responded than only winners could be heroes. The short wait is over, as he took the gold in a hard-fought 200 backstroke. Vladimir Selkov (RUS) had the lead for seven lengths with top qualifier Wei Wang (CHN) in close pursuit. Bent had paced the race perfectly, coming on strong in the second half and saving the best for the last length.

Nessier Bent of Cuba, won the 100 and 200 backstrokes
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Gold medallist Bent said, "I was a bit tired from the relay race yesterday. I took it easy in the heats to be ready for the finals."

Disappointed bronze medallist Vladimir Selkov said, "It was hard - I felt very heavy. It was not good because I lost it on the last 50." After a six week training camp in France (3 weeks at altitude and 3 weeks at sea level), the Russian team was paying the price. With the focus of their preparation the European trials in May, they were unable to be at their best, whether they liked it or not.

The women's 100 backstroke was easily won by Sandra Všlker, but marred by her subsequent disqualification. She kicked underwater beyond the 15 m mark, and afterward admitted having been over the line. "Yes, I knew it because I could feel I was over the line." She added that she thought the decision was "unfair because at the World Cup lots of people went further," a statement which of course holds no water. Several people, including Australian star Adrian Radley, were disqualified during the World Cup for the same reason. Nevertheless, Všlker took the decision well.

The Chinese consequently moved up to the top spots. Donghua Lu took the gold with 59.75 and Yan Chen the silver with 1:00.14. Defending champion Misty Hyman (USA) picked up her second medal of the championships with 1:00.17 for the bronze.

The men's 4x200 free relay was to be Swedish veteran freestyler Anders Holmertz's last swim. After an impressive career that included four Olympic Games, Holmertz retired after the competition. It was a bit of a disappointment as they managed only a second place behind the charged Australians, who established the first FINA record for the event with 7:02.74. An overjoyed Hackett said, "It's unbelievable, I can't explain it really!" Klim added sagely, "It's very rewarding to swim faster than yesterday."

Australia's world record 4x200 free relay team: Michael Klim, William Kirby, Grant Hackett and Matthew Dunn
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Natasha Bowron (AUS) made easy work of the longest women's race. She won the 800 freestyle and was never challenged. The race was for second. At first Rachel Harris (AUS) and Carla Geurts (NED) battled for second, but Kerstin Kielgass (GER) moved to second at the 500 and held it until the end.

Bowron won gold in 8:26.45; Kielgass won silver in 8:28.10; and Geurts won bronze in 8:28.96.

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