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All Africa Games - Day 1

Sep 12, 1999  - Neville Smith

Wittstock Causes Upset As SA Strikes Gold At Ellis Park

Charlene Wittstock, the South African with the "cover girl" looks upset Egyptian star Rania Elwani to win the women's 100m freestyle and give South Africa a golden full-house on the first day in the swimming pool at the All Africa Games in Johannesburg on Saturday.

On a bitterly cold evening at Ellis Park, the SA team warmed the partisan crowd, scooping five gold medals, two silvers and a bronze.

It was Elwani who went out at an electrifing pace to turn on 27.04 at the 50 mark with Wittstock, Bowley and Moodey in a group about a half a body lenght behind her. All three came off the turn hard and started closing in on a tiring Elwani. Wittstock, the third fastest in the heats, surged past Elwani the final 10m to touch first in 57.46 seconds. Zimbabwe's Teresa Moodie finished second in 58.04 and Elwani, the Africa record-holder, was third in 58.12 narowly outtouching South African, Stacey Bowley in 58.13.

"I was actually shaking after the race," said an overjoyed 21-year-old Wittstock. " I couldn't believe I'd done it. I was looking at my coach and I don't think he could believe it either," she said . "The more I think about it the more I think 'wow'. She (Elwani) has never been beaten in Africa. She's the champ."

Wittstock - who will meet Elwani again in the 50m freestyle, where the Egyptian also owns the Africa record - also spoke about the near freezing conditions.

"It's really cold. I couldn't feel my hands. But this morning my coach made me realise that we're all in the same boat. It's actually nice and warm in the pool. I didn't want to get out after my race." Swimming team captain Brett Petersen and compatriot Chris Stewart totally dominated in giving SA a one-two in the men's 100m breaststroke, Petersen cruising home just short of his 1:02.45 continental mark in 1:02.63. Stewart took the Silver in 1:06.01 with Alan Ogden of Zimbabwe bronze in 1:08.08.

"I couldn't believe my time," said the management information systems student at Florida State University, who finished fourth at the Pan Pacifics in Sydney last month. "If this was in Durban I'm 100 percent certain it would have been a 1:01. It looks good for next year," added Petersen refering to the Olympics.

South Africa's Mandy Loots (4:59.50) and Natalie du Toit (5:06.62) easily scooped gold and silver in the women's 400m individual medley. Kenza Benaceur of Algeria was third in 5:29.60.  Herman Louw triumphed in the men's 200m freestyle, swimming a clever race as he overtook a tiring Salim Iles of Algeria on the final 75m to win. Zimbabwe's Glen Walshaw was second and deaf Durbanite Terence Parkin, a breaststroke specialist, took bronze. Iles, the Africa 100m freestyle record-holder, faded into fourth.

The SA 4 x 200m freeestyle relay team of Kirsten van Heerden, Stacey Bowley, Bronwyn Dedekind and Kim van Selm raced to gold in 8:36.76, followed by Zimbabwe (8:47.56) and Egypt (89:18.40).