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Day 1 Report : Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships

Apr 4, 2000  - Neville Smith

If ever a statement was made in a South African swimming pool it was on Sunday night at the Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships being held at the Kings Park Aquatic Complex in Durban.

Three African and South African records - from Brett Petersen, Ryk Neethling and Mandy Loots - set the standard for what is likely to follow in the next few days.

Petersen(Western Province), one of the sport's emerging stars, showed just what potential lies in that big frame of his when lowering the South African 100m breaststroke record to 1:01.62 in the evenings semi finals. The American-based 23-year-old has looked the genuine article for a while, but this is the first time he has really put his whole act together.

Terrence Parkin(KZN) (1:03.10)seemed comfortable in his swim as did Greg Owen(Cental Gauteng) (1:04.07). Former continental and national record holder, Christopher Stewart(CGA) (1:04.58) can't be dicounted and could be the dark horse in amongst the bunch.

Neethling(Free State) was another on Sunday night to venture where no other man has ever been in South Africa.

Victory in the men's 400m freestyle final on the first day of the nationals gave the crowd the privilege of watching the quickest eight-lapper seen in this country.

In producing a 3:48.74, Neethling showed just why he was a big fancy to get a medal in this event at the Olympics later this year.

In an event where he was never challenged it was always going to be a chase for the minor placings. Here the US based trio of Mark Jollands(KZN) (3:57.38), Henk Markgraaf(Free State) (3:59.60) and Dennis Sirringhaus(Free State) (4:00.04) had a battle royal for the minor placings.

Loots(CGA) showed just why she had decided to drop the 400m individual medley event from her schedule for the day when she broke the South African record in the semifinals of the women's 100m butterfly.

Her 1:00.71 shaved six hundredths of a second off her existing mark, established at the Pan Pacs last year and was exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of an Olympic qualifying mark. If ever there were any doubts as to her inclusion for the Sydney contingent, they were surely erased on Sunday night.

Renate duPlessis(Western Province) (1:00.85) provided game opposition while a rejuvinated Julia Russell(KZN) (1:01.52) showed that she will be a serious contender in the final.

The first gold medal of the swimming programme has gone to sixteen year old Western Province schoolgirl Natalie du Toit, who had things very much her own way in the women's 400m individual medley.

She had a convincing win from National Youth Squad members Candice Little (CGA) (5:00.64) and Marizanne Grundlingh (Northern Tigers) (5:01.58) in a race which saw her dominate from the gun.

With the program the full Olympic one, we should be in for some exciting racing over the next week.