PARIS - Spectators were lined for two hours outside the Georges Vallerey Pool before the opening of the doors to the final session of the 1997 FINA World Cup. The stands were packed, the temperature soared, and the applause was deafening.
In the women's 100 freestyle, Claudia Poll, CRC, edged out world record holder Jingyi Le, CHN 54.56 to 55.23. Poll later easily won the 400 freestyle in 4:05.63. "The 54 second 100 free was great!" Poll said. "I love the challenge of swimming the different events and having to change the pace, like the 200 freestyle yesterday followed by the 800. Next year I might event start swimming the IMs again." Poll won the distance category and finished second in the sprints. Clearly the competitions are made-to-order for Poll.
After bettering the 400 I.M. world record on the first night, Marcel Wouda, NED had fun with the 200 freestyle, in a no pressure swim, his 1:45.25 was new Dutch record and the world leading time this season. "I'm mentally exhausted," he said afterward, "but somehow just before my races I've been able to switch off and focus, I'm so happy."
Mark Warnecke, GER cut it close to win the overall breaststroke category. Coming into Paris, he trailed by 19 points and needed two wins to clinch the category. He bettered his own world record of 27.00 in the 50 breaststroke with 26.97, on Sunday he added the 100 with 59.55 to give him 20 points and the US $ 7,500 prize for the win. Marek Krawczyk, POL the previous category leader finished second with 71 points.
Brigitte Becue, BEL, clinched the women's breaststroke category with her wins in the 100-200, (1:08.13 and 2:25.87) in national record times.
The high point of the final evening and the entire 1997 series was without a doubt Denis Pankratov's 100 butterfly. In a monumental effort, he set his fourth pending world record in one week. His time of 51.78 brought the crowd to its feet for an ovation that lasted several minutes. "The last struggle is always the most difficult," he said, wincing. "I wouldn't have been upset had I not done it, but is happened, the same story. I just tried to win." Regarding his overall performance during the World Cup, he added in true perfectionist fashion, "It's a pity I was disqualified in Gelsenkirchen, but I was glad to get the records here."
Jorg Hoffmann, GER, 27 years old capped off a successful if not completely satisfying World Cup winning the 400-800 freestyles. He narrowly missed the 400 free sc world record last weekend, but the 1991 world champion in the 1500 free is back in top form and hope that he can keep it going until 1998. He took the distance category with the maximum possible 80 points winning eight events at four competitions.
In the women's butterfly category with three swimmers tied for top points they will each take home US $ 4,167. Huijue Cai, CHN won the 50-100 fly and moved into a three way tie with Limin Liu, CHN and Mette Jacobsen, DEN.