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Mare Nostrum Monte Carlo - Day 1

Jun 12, 2001  - Neville Smith

The final meet in the 2001 Mare Nostrum series, the XIXth International Swimming Meeting of Monte Carlo got underway on Tuesday afternoon at the Stade Louis II complex.

This competition encompasses the IXth International Speed Tournament which pits the fastest sprinters of the meet in a series of elimination races, culminating with a "head to head" clash between the fastest two qualifiers on Wednesday evening.

The men's 400m freestyle started the evening's finals and it was Australian Ian Thorpe who was on a mission. At the first 100m Thorpe (53.22) had opened a two-body length lead over the chasing pack and the capacity crowd cheered in unison as a great time was on the cards. At the 300m mark the thorpedo had a 20m jump on the pack and the vocal crowd was right behind him. Thorpe looked comfortable coming into the wall and posted a new meet record of 3:41.71 to smash the existing mark of Sweden's Anders Holmertz of 3:51.22 that was established way back in 1994.

The battle for the minor placing went to Czech, Kvetoslav Svoboda (3:57.28) while New Zealand's Johnathan Duncan secured the bronze in 3:58.61.

The ladies 400m Individual Medley saw Yana Klochkova once again dominate proceedings. The powerful Ukrainian once again showed that she is without a peer in this event and must rate as one of the most complete swimmers of all time.

Yana took her fourth consecutive 400 IM title of the 2001 Mare Nostrum Series when she won in 4:42.33 from China's Liang Shuang (4:46.91) and Italian Federica Bisca (4:47.35). It couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

The men's 200m breastroke followed.

Australian Jim Piper has been in scintillating form of late and the up and coming Aussie maintained this in Monaco and claimed the title in quick 2:12.41 with a fast finish. Second place went to Daniel Malek (2:15.15) while France's Johann Bernard (2:15.88) edged out South African Olympic silver medallist Terence Parkin (2:16.56) who has showed a welcome return to form at this meet.

Piper smashed the meet record of Russian Andrei Ivanov of 2:14.09 established way back in 1995.

Then ladies 100m breaststroke followed and it was Amanda Beard from the USA and South African Sarah Poewe who matched each other stroke for stroke coming into the first turn. I was here that Poewe struck and coming of the wall held a slight advantage over Beard with Nan Luo from China in close attendance. (32.57/32.84/33.66)

With the crowd urging them home it was again the blonde South African ace who go ahead to claim yet another victory on the 2001 Mare Nostrum Series when she claimed victory in 1:08.74 while Beard had to be content with the silver in 1:08.93. Luo claimed the minor placing, once again in 1:10.46.

The men's 100m freestyle was another exciting affair with victory once again anticipated for the great Alex Popov. Someone forgot to tell Swedish ace Lars Frolander that. The fair-haired Swede was ruthless in his approach and was out like an express train.

Coming off the turn Popov (24.24) extended his stroke but Frolander (24.07) was away and "the Czar" had to be content with the silver in a time of 49.53, while Frolander was victorious in 49.51. Algerian speedster Salim Iles (23.80) claimed the bronze in 50.05 ahead of South African Ryk Neethling (24.75) who posted a time of 50.29.

The powerful Neethling, formally a distance specialist will undoubtedly evolve into one of the world's premier sprinters, as he possesses one of the strongest finishes in world swimming at this moment in time.

The ladies 200m freestyle followed and once again it was the first lady of Costa Rica swimming Claudia Poll who, despite an injured right ankle, took the race by the scruff of the neck dominated proceedings from the start.

Coming off the first 100m (58.60) the lanky Costa Rican had opened up a full body length on the chasing pack and she had thrown down the challenge. Coming home Poll was pulling on all her reserves and held on to claim yet another title in 2:05.05 ahead of Denmark's Mette Jacobsen (2:01.39) while New Zealands''Karen Taite had a gutsy finish to claim the bronze in 2:03.26.

The men's 200m butterfly was once again a dominated by the Ukrainian star, Denis Sylantyev, who produced an championship winning performance when he thrashed the rest of the field posting a fast 1:57.01.

The battle was always going to be for the minor placing and here an exciting tussle was decided over the last 10m with the Australian duo of Grant McGregor (2:00.81) and Bill Kirby (2:01.15) collecting the silverware ahead of the pack.

The ladies 100m butterfly saw Swedish star Johanna Sjoberg and South African stalwart Mandy Loots dominate proceedings.

The blonde duo matched each other stroke for stroke and it was Loots (28.35/28.38) who held a slight advantage at the turn. Sjoberg struck back coming home and as the two approached the wall it was the Swede who untouched Loots to claim the championship title in 1:00.17. Loots had to settle for silver in 1:00.19 while Denmark's Sophia Skou claimed the minor placing in a distant 1:01.63.

The men's 100m backstroke followed and it was Croatian Gordan Kozulz (55.51) who upset the odds when he edged out triple Olympic gold medallist, Lenny Krayzelburg (55.71) to claim the championship title. Japanese teenager Toshifumi Takeuchi (56.94) held on to claim the bronze ahead of Australian Ray Hass (57.08).

The ladies 200m backstroke saw Czech, Marcela Kubalcikova win in convincing fashion when she claimed the title in 2:13.65, while the early pace setter Li Qing (2:14.03) from China held off the fast finishing Arisa Murakawa (2:14.82) from Japan to secure the silver.

The men's 200m Individual Medley concluded the program when Canadian Brian Johns showed courage to take the control of the race after 100m and power his way to a convincing victory in a time of 2:03.11 from Australian Robert van der Zant (2:04.00) with New Zealand's Dean Kent once again amongst the medals with a 2:05.06.

The 50m sprint semi finals followed and the following swimmers will contest for a place in the two man finals on Wednesday evening.

Ladies 50m butterfly: Johanna Sjoberg (27.71), Karen Egdal (27.86), Mandy Loots (27.86), Nadine Rolland, (28.02)

Men's 50m butterfly: Lars Frolander (24.39), Jere Hard (24.53), Thomas Rupprath (24.67), Michael Minteko (24.71)

Ladies 50m breaststroke: Sarah Poewe (32.35), Amanda Beard (32.54), Jane Schaefer (33.06), Carmela Schlegel (33.06)

Men's 50m breaststroke: Oleg Lisogor (28.49), Daniel Malek (28.57), Vanja Rogulj (28.62), Jarno Pihlava (28.79)

Ladies 50m backstroke: Nina Zhivanevskanya (28.73), Sandra Volker (29.53), Erin Gammel (30.06) Ilona Hlavackova (30.12)

Men's 50m backstroke: Rodolfo Falcon (24.30), Ante Masdcovic (26.36), Lenny Krayzelburg (26.53), Gerhard Zandberg (26.55) Ladies 50m freestyle: Vivienne Rignall (26.03), Cristina Chiuso (26.11), Johanna Sjoberg (26.31), Flavia Delaroli (26.51)

Men's 50m freestyle: Jurien Sicot (22.69), Alex Popov (22.78), Salim Iles (22.95), Ryk Neethling (23.08).

The meet brings what has been a highly successful 2001 Mare Nostrum Series to a close and Wednesday's program will be a fitting climax