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Franzi At Trials: Time To Save Lives

May 10, 2012  - Craig Lord

News Round-Up:

Germany: on the day that Mssrs Phelps and Lochte race the 200m free at the Charlotte Ultra Grand Prix in the US, one of their key challengers Paul Biedermann takes to his blocks with the rest of Germany's elite at Olympic trials in Berlin tomorrow (the meet starts today with the men's and women's 400m medley finals in store). TV pundit Franziska van Almsick, world record holder over 200m free for 13 years from 1994, will be poolside to talk to the winners and medal contenders for Germany at London 2012 but takes the chance today to highlight a bigger issue: every primary school child in Germany, she says, should learn to swim - but right now many never get the chance, school programmes and state policy falling shy of what is needed. "It is not about top performance in sport but about the fact that swimming saves life," Van Almsick tells the German media far and wide. 

USA: the University of Alabama has hired former Alabama swimmer Dennis Pursley as head coach. Pursley will conclude his role as Britain's head coach at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Ukraine: at a meet in Kharkov, Daryna Zevina took four wins, on 1:59.55 and 4:14.96 in the 200m and 400m freestyle, and 1:01.34 and 2:11.31 over 100m and 200m backstroke. Andriy Govorov clocked 22.48 and 51.23 in the 50m and 100m freestyle, Yan Konovalov won the 200m free in 1:50.16 and Andriy Kovalenko clocked 1:01.52 in the 100m breaststroke.

London 2012: With 79 days left until the Olympic torch is lit at the London Olympics, organisers have completed an exhaustive series of dress rehearsals - and say all is well. The year-long London Prepares series featured 42 test events at 28 permanent and temporary venues. Some 350,000 spectators watched the test events, including the British swimming trials and international test event at the iconic Zaha-Hadid designed Aquatics Centre in the first week in March. "We set out to run events which would test the venues, the sporting field of play and our workforce while at the same time allowing members of the public to enjoy world class sport in an Olympic setting," said organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe. "We have done just this and all these events, without exception, have gone well. Of course there will be some lessons learned from each event but we have not had to make any major changes to any of our venues or our plans. We are in great shape and on course to stage the world's greatest sporting event," added Lord Coe. Among the biggest criticisms raise so far are the lack of guaranteed tickets for dedicated specialist sports fans, with many parents of key athletes unable to book travel in the uncertainty of not then being able to get into a venue to watch their world-leading offspring compete. Lengthy queues at venues was also an issue though few will complain about an airport-security style process if all get to the other side of the Games without incident.

Olympic Flame: the Olympic flame was today lit at Olympia during a ceremony organised by the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC). The lighting symbolically marks the beginning of the Torch Relay that will bring the flame to the Olympic Stadium in London on 27 July. 

In line with tradition, the flame was lit, following the time-honoured ritual of using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror, by a High Priestess - Ino Menegaki - at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. The priestess then entered the Ancient Olympic Stadium, in a procession choreographed by Artemis Ignatiou, and used the flame to ignite the torch of the first runner of the Relay, Spyros Gianniotis, the British-born Greek open water swimming world champion and three times Olympian.

Gianniotis then transferred the flame to Alex Loukos, one of London 2012’s young ambassadors in Singapore in 2005, who has Greek heritage and lives in the London borough of Newham.