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GBR Vs GER Duel Next Month

Jan 12, 2010  - Craig Lord

The first major Great Britain Vs Germany swimming duel since the 1960s is to be held in Swansea on February 20-21. Many of Britain's top swimmers have confirmed their participation in an event that will serve as the first of three competitions leading to trials at which Britain and home-nation teams will be selected for the European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

It is understood that several of Britain's leading swimmers, including double Olympic medallist David Davies and world record breakers in 2009 Liam Tancock and Joanne Jackson, have confirmed their participation. 

There is as yet no official confirmation that Germany will send its strongest team, while Britta Steffen is among those unlikely to race, given that she cancelled her winter short-course season after training plans in Australia last year went array. There is no confirmation as yet whether the February duel will be held short- or long-course.

Last month, the first USA Vs European Select duel took place in Manchester, the Americans the runaway winners. The USA federation, British Swimming, as well as German and Italian partners, were delighted with the duel format and the potential for the event to become a regular television showcase for the sport. 

Britain and Germany also agreed to meet more regularly in an effort to provide tough competition that would help to raise the bar for their swimmers leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. A German team without Steffen and Biedermann would still be a formidable opponent for any Britain team that will most certainly be missing some of its top guns, such as world champion Gemma Spofforth, based in Florida, and Ellen Gandy, based in Australia.

Gandy this month set the early standard on the new textile 2010 world rankings on butterfly with swift long-course efforts of 58.88 and 2:07.77 over 100m and 200m respectively at the Victoria age-group championships Down Under.

Many of Germany's top distance swimmers, including Biedermann and world open water champion Thomas Lurz, are this week enduring an endurance camp with foreign visitors in Potsdam. On the deck, head German coach Dirk Lange is overseeing a programme led by Jorg Hoffmann, 1991 world 1,500m freestyle champion for the first international reunified German team after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Among the visitors are: Riaan Schoeman, Heerden Herman, Chad Ho and Natalie Du Toit (all RSA); Australians Robert Hurley  and Trent Grimsey; Italians Samuel Pizetti and Luca Puce; Spain's Marco Rivera; and from the Faroes, rising European distance star Pál Joensen. 

He has his coach, Jón Bjarnason, with him, as do others. The idea is that Hoffmann leads this camp, not just for swimmers but for coaches, who feed in their own ideas to a gathering aimed at providing a tough training environment of world-class talents that some of those swimmers would not otherwise get because back home they are often head and shoulders above their squad-mates.

Similar programmes have been operated between nations and within nations before, though many of the very best distance swimmers must, inevitably, spent time in lonely waters. In Britain this month, one of Lurz's key rivals over 10km, David Davies, the Olympic silver medal winner who is also the first and only man ever to win an Olympic medal in the race pool (bronze over 1,500m in 2004) and the open water marathon, has endured a 200km two-week blast with some eye-watering sets that would have done for many a world-class athlete. 

We will return to Davies and Lurz soon in our In the Arena; How Rivals Square Up feature - and some very fine answers these men of iron provided too.

In Potsdam, the German coaching team includes Stefan Lurz, brother and coach to Thomas, and Angela Maurer's Russian husband - the only Russian coach in the German swim programme right now - Nikolai Evseev.

Visiting coaches include: Alisdair Hatfield  and Pierre Deroubaix (accompanied by Dr Kerith Aginsky); Greg Towle (AUS); and Arnd Ginter, with the Italians. The lead doctor for the camp is Dr Home Gharavi.

Due to visit the camp this week were inspirational distance aces from the past: Brian Goodell (USA), the 1976 Olympic 1,500m champion; and German Olympic and world champions over 400m, respectively Uwe Dassler (GDR) and Rainer Henkel (FRG).