GELSENKIRCHEN - Those who had concerns about the increase in the number of meets on the World Cup circuit had their fears confirmed at the Arena festival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, round seven of the tour. Not only were the numbers down but also the standard of competition.
Alexander Popov (RUS) cruised to victory in both the 50 and 100 freestyle races. He admitted that 48.06 for the 100 was "one of the best times I have swum this year. I could have been faster, however, I wasn't challenged. At the moment it's tough to be away from home for so long...my son is not yet six months old."
Many swimmers were feeling the effects of the World Cup series following so closely after the World Championships. Marcel Wouda, the Netherlands' 200 IM world champion, expressed it best after winning all three medley events. "I've competed in so many competitions since the Olympics in Atlanta," he said. "Now I'm tired and I need a break. I will take the break in the coming summer. It was a great season for me taking in the European and World Championship titles. It was extremely difficult to go back to training after the Worlds in Perth."
The races lacked the record-breaking lustre of last year's competition; Canada's Curtis Myden came the closest to defeating Wouda. In the 400 IM the lanky Dutchman won (4:08.97) but in the 200 he just managed to make it home by 4/100ths (1:57.87).
The Commonwealth countries will not have the rest that Wouda intends to take, their Games coming up in September. Australia's Olympic champion Susie O'Neill is well aware of the busy time ahead." After completing a hat trick of victories in Gelsenkirchen she said, "Now I'll return to Australia where I'll compete in the national championships and the Commonwealth trials. And then I'll need a break."
The new underwater rule in the butterfly has not affected her performances. She won the 100 in 59.94 and the 200 in 2:07.26. She also won the 200 freestyle in 1:59.29. Of the 200 she said, "It's time to improve Mary T. Meagher's world record time of 2:05.65 set in 1981. I could do it with the right preparation and tapering...like when I won the gold in Atlanta. But the performance today was OK."
Aussie Michael Klim, winner of seven medals at the world championships, failed to make his mark claiming, "I still haven't recovered from the jet lag. I'm a bit tired after our arrival from Australia. And what is more, I haven't really trained since the World Championships in Perth. But I'm sure I will improve my performances considerably in Imperia and Paris."
Germany's Antje Buschschulte made a clean sweep of all three backstroke races but the Swimmer of the Meet went to her teammate Sandra Volker. Her 1:01.49 100 IM effort won her the car.