SHEFFIELD- Sue Rolph established three British records and tied one Commonwealth record at the ASA National Championships, which doubled as England's Trials for this September's Commonwealth Games. With her performances in the 50 and 100 freestyle, Rolph becomes the favourite to win gold in Kuala Lumpur.
The 20-year-old arrived in Sheffield fresh from a successful Mare Nostrum Tour in the south of France, during which she beat Jenny Thompson (USA), the world champion, in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. A couple of days after returning from Canet she entered hospital to have her wisdom teeth out, which she claimed was "the worst experience of my life." A compulsory week out of the water gave her just 10 days to prepare for the Trials in Sheffield.
Wearing the new Adidas bodysuit, Rolph dipped under 56 seconds for the first time to equal Karen Pickering's British and Commonwealth record of 55.79 in the 100 freestyle.
Having already bettered the British record for the 50 freestyle in Monte Carlo with 25.78, only to have Alison Sheppard lower it to 25.73 at the Scottish Open in early July, Rolph lowered it in Sheffield to 25.57, placing her 28 on the all-time sprint list.
Until this year, Rolph was never able to sprint fast and swim good individual medley at the same meet, but she exploded that myth with a British-record-shattering 2:16.04 for the 200 IM
Another standout performer at the ASA Nationals was James Hickman, with four wins.The 22-year-old opened with a 53.39 win in the 100 butterfly, but with a malfunction of the scoreboard it took agonizing minutes to determine the time and the order of finish.
Hickman then went on to excel in the 400 IM with a British record time of 4:21.54. Originally not planning to swim this event at the Commonwealth Games, he explained "With Matthew Dunn and Curtis Myden not swimming I cannot afford not to do it!"
Later in the competition he won the 200 IM and the 200 fly. And without Scott Goodman (AUS) in the 200 fly, Hickman will be favoured. Rolph and Hickman will be going to the Games as England's best hopes. Paul Palmer, England's leading swimmer, missed the last Commonwealth Games due to illness and injury and things have not been much better in 1998. Since coming down from an altitude training camp in May, his training has been far from ideal.
Palmer also wore the new bodysuit, which helped him to win the 200 and 400 freestyles. "Not everyone likes it," Palmer said. "But it suits me. It also saves me having to shave down."
He produced a fine 200 freestyle heat swim with 1:49.66, but did not recover properly for the final and was tired. His final time of 1:49.22 won the event but was 38/100ths of a second slower than his 1993 British record.
Palmer added the 400 freestyle gold in 3:52.24, ahead of Graeme Smith. Unfortunately he will not be able to resume hard training—under doctor's orders, he cannot push his pulse over 120 beats per minute. "I'm not going to be able to get back up to where I was in January at the Worlds." (He was third with 3:48.02).
Jamaican-born Sion Brinn, 25, gave the English selectors a headache by winning the 100 freestyle and finishing second in the 50 freestyle. Brinn moved to England last fall, but represented Jamaica at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and up to August 1997. England requested dispensation from the Commonwealth Games Executive but have been turned down. He needed to prove English residence for the past 18 months , which he could not do. He plans to concentrate on the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Including Brinn, 45 swimmers achieved the English Commonwealth qualifying times, but with only 42 places available, three swimmers were going to be disappointed. Among the 45 qualifiers were four gold medallists from the Victoria Commonwealth Games four years ago. They were Karen Pickering (100 freestyle), Mark Foster (50 freestyle), Martin Harris (100 backstroke), and Adam Ruckwood (200 backstroke).
Graeme Smith, winner of the 1500 freestyle in 15:08.08, will be representing Scotland. He missed bettering his British record of 15:02.48 by swimming too hard during the early part of the race.
Helen Don-Duncan established the fourth British record with her 2:13.70 in the 200 backstroke. She did this despite a mishap with her bathing suit. She bought a new suit prior to her race thinking it had a low front. In fact it had a high front, which was very tight and gave her a choking feeling.
ABOUT THE BODYSUIT
The new Adidas bodysuit proved successful when worn by Susan Rolph and Paul Palmer. Rolph believes it is "the best innovation ever" and Palmer says "not everyone likes it, but it suits me!"
The bodysuit, which covers the ankles and wrists and everything in between, is made of Teflon-coated, lightweight Lycra Power fabric. It is claimed to increase speed and endurance.
Adidas believes that the second-skin fit prevents water penetration because it grips the body like no other swimwear, remaining static throughout extreme movement and thus preventing water entering at the neck, wrist, and ankles. Adidas first started testing the material in 1996 and claims that a key aspect is fabric compression, which reduces muscle vibration that causes muscle fatigue and thus increases speed and endurance. The Teflon coating gives the swimmer a hydrodynamic profile and reduces water penetration, which reduces drag and increases speed.
David Smith, Ph.D., tested the bodysuit at the University of Calgary's Human Performance Laboratory. His results show that over five consecutive 200-metre tests, the swimmers wearing the bodysuit registered a heart rate 1.5% lower than when they were wearing conventional swimwear, which he believes clearly indicates improved racing performances.