SWIMNEWS ONLINE: September 1998 Magazine Articles

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1998 Commonwealth Games

An Australian Avalanche

World Class Swimmers Win 23 of 32 Events


Nick J. Thierry

Every four years the countries that formerly belonged to the British Empire gather for what is billed as the second-biggest international sports festival, with over 5,000 competitors. Traditionally only individual sports were contested, but in 1998 four team sports (rugby, cricket, team handball, and field hockey) were added.

The swimming events remain world class as the very best swimmers available from the competing countries fight it out, but Australia was clearly superior, as has been the case for most (except in 1978 and 1986) of the past 50 years.

One world record, seven Commonwealth and the following national records were bettered during the six days of the competition: South Africa 11, Britain 9, Australia 7, and one each for Canada and New Zealand.

Large teams represented England (42), Australia (41), and Canada (40) as this is the last international competition that allows three entries per / country to make it attractive for all.

Canada swam better than four years ago, winning four golds, but Australia was truly world class and will be even better in time for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when their teenagers mature further.

Canada's head coach Dave Johnson suggested that it would be difficult to improve on this showing in the future. Funding sources from government and sponsors are considerably below what Australia and Britain have available. Canada's swimming budget is approximately a third of what Australia spends.

Australian men were the class of the meet with only Mark Versfeld (CAN) and James Hickman (ENG) holding them off. They had three medal sweeps (200 and 400 free and 100 fly).

In the women's events, Australia was not completely dominant as two events had no Aussies on the podium (50 free and 200 I.M.). But the top performer -Susie O'Neill (AUS)-equalled the single Games feat of six golds and came closest to breaking the oldest world record in the sport, the 1981 record in the women's 200 butterfly.

Australia won all six relays, three in record times. Of the 40 Canadians on the team, 19 won at least one medal. Joanne Malar won five, Jessica Deglau four, and Marianne Limpert, Mark Versfeld, and Lauren van Oosten won three each.

South Africa-2-2
New Zealand--22
New Zealand1517
South Africa--22
* No bronze in womens 4x200 Free

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