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Simmonds Strong Ahead Of Busy Coventry

Jan 29, 2011  - Craig Lord

South Africa: Elizabeth Simmonds (GBR) laid down an early 2011 marker in the 200m backstroke at the inaugural SA International Invitational Swimming Meet at the Newton Park Swimming Pool in Port Elizabeth when she kept Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) at bay, both women treating the meet as part of training and race preparations for the world championships in Shanghai in July on the way to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Simmonds stopped the clock at 2:09.28 (30.48, 33.08, 32.67, 33.05), with Coventry on 2:11.12 (31.62, 33.16, 32.91, 33.43). In the same session Coventry won the 200m freestyle in 2:02.06 and pipped world short-course champion Mireia Belmonte (ESP) by 0.01sec in the 200m medley, 2:13.40 to 2:13.41. Simmonds also arced the 50m back, taking second to sprint specialist Fabiola Molina (BRA), victor in 28.50.

In the 50m breaststroke final, Molina's Brazil teammate Joao Gomes edged out South African world champion Cameron van der Burgh 28.00 to 28.06. "I’m not disappointed," said Van der Burgh after the race. "I haven’t shaved yet and have done no speed-work. So I really cannot complain." All part of the journey to bigger moments ahead. "My focus is London 2012. I have the World Title, the World Record and the Commonwealth Title. Now all that is missing is the Olympic Title. So now we are focusing on that."

His 15-year-old RSA teammate Vanessa Mohr took the 100m butterfly in 59.90sec ahead of teammate Mandy Loots, on 1:00.45, with Britain's European Championship silver medallist Fransesca Halsall on 1:00.60 in her first race since having surgery on her ankle and taking a few weeks out of the water late last year. Halsall claimed the 50m free in 25,.80 ahead of Brazilians Tatiana Lemos (who was also second to Coventry in the 200m free) and Molina, on 26.20 and 26.83 respectively.

Conchi Badillo (ESP) and Lowri Tynan (GBR) did battle with Suzaan Van Biljon (RSA) in the 100m breaststroke as the South African makes her way back to best form after an 18-month study sabbatical away from the race pool. Conchi took the race in 1:10.99, 0.01sec up on Tynan, with Van Biljon completing the fingernail finish on 1:11.09.

Commonwealth and world s/c champion in 2010, Chad le Clos was a class apart in the 200m 'fly, on 1:58.34, in a session that also saw him race 100m (50.95), 400m free (3:58.98) and 50 'fly (24.82). 

Other winners included Kathryn Meaklim (RSA), on 8:52.74 over 800m free; Yannick Lebherz (GER), on 4:19.89 in the 400m medley; Gideon Louw (RSA) in the 100m free, on 50.30, ahead of Benjamin Starke (GER), on 50.53; Randall Bal (USA) ahead of Liam Tanmcock (GBR), 54.90 to 55.06 in the 100m back, with Gerhard Zandberg third in 55.52; Heerden Herman (RSA) on 3:51.19 in the 400m free ahead of Lebherz, on 3:53.95 and Ross Davenport (GBR), on 3:54.10; Marco Koch (GER) and William Diering (RSA), both on 2:15.11 in the 200m breaststroke (their time matching the stunning 1976 Olympic world-record winning time of David Wilkie (GBR) as the only non-American man to win gold that year), with Neil Versfeld (RSA) on 2:15.76 and Brazil's Henrique Barbosa completing a tight race in 2:16.11; and Neil EWatson (RSA) on 24.31 in the 50 'fly ahead of Benjamin Starke, 24.35, and George Bovell (TRI), who was among the top finishers in the 100m free earlier in the session.


Luxembourg: Olympic 100m free champion Alain Bernard (FRA) took another step on his journey of speed in 2011 with two wins at the Euro Meet in Luxembourg, the first a 22.14 50m free victory ahead of teammate Boris Steimetz, 22.60, and Steffen Deibler (GER), on 22.66, then in 1:49.90 in the 200m ahead of the other world-class Deibler brother, Markus, on 1:50.55. Markus also won the 200m medley in 2:02.95. Laurent Carnol (LUX) took the 200m breaststroke in 2:13.23 ahead of Panagiotis Samilidis (GRE), on 2:13.58, and Hugues Duboscq (FRA), on 2:14.17, the Frenchman having won the 50m dash earlier on 28.45. Other winners included Andriy Govorov (UKR) in the 50 'fly, on 23.97 ahead of Steffen Deibler, on 23.99.

Coach to Bernard and the Antibes squad in Luxembourg, Denis Auguin said that his sprint charge had improved his performance (not just on the clock) since the Nancy meet earlier in the month. He took two strokes less than he had in Nancy for a faster time, and that on a day of spending 10 hours at the venue, in training and racing. The 200m was "a very god time for him" but rather than the time, the "commitment he showed was a good sign of the will he has to be competitive."