SHEFFIELD-James Hickman went from strength to strength, winning all four of his events at the British leg of the World Cup series held in Sheffield, England.
The 22-year-old Hickman, who established European and Commonwealth records in Sydney, found no peers in the 100 and 200 IM and the 100 and 200 butterfly.
His swim in the morning heats of the 200 butterfly on the opening day showed just what to expect in the final. Having qualified some eight seconds faster than his nearest rival, it was abundantly clear that his only rival would be the stopwatch. Hickman recorded a time of 1:54.75. In the final, he was ahead of his own record pace after the first 50 m. With great determination and strength, he powered his way to the world's third-fastest time, 1:53.19, behind Russia's Denis Pankratov (the world record holder and double Olympic champion) and France's Frank Esposito (the world silver medallist and European champion).
It was nearly a double record-breaking performance except for a poor turn in the 100 IM from backstroke to breaststroke, where Hickman himself thought "I could be disqualified." His time of 55.26 was shy of the British and Commonwealth time he set in Sydney just over eight weeks earlier.
While Hickman was happy with his first day's work, he still hankers for his first world record, which he believes could well come in Paris at the final meet of the 1998 World Cup circuit.
Day 2 dawned as the previous day had closed for James Hickman. There was just no stopping this young man, who now trains with his new club, Leeds. A 52.12 in the heats of the 100 butterfly indicated that his efforts of the previous day had not drained all his energy.
Hickman's best in the 100 fly, 51.40, was done in January. His winning time of 51.56 was no mean effort. Only he, Klim, and Pankratov have bettered this time.
In the 200 IM, Hickman was just ahead of his record pace at the 100. At the end of the breaststroke leg he was well ahead of the record. His final time of 1:57.89 claimed the British standard from Fraser Walker.
Training with Leeds has meant James Hickman is now coached by Terry Denison, who steered Adrian Moorehouse to gold in the 100 breaststroke at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Denison, in the short time Hickman has been with him, has already made a difference to Hickman's Breaststroke technique.
While James Hickman was satisfied with his results, Germany's Sandra Volker was far from happy with both her performances and the varying standards and rewards for each World Cup meet. The 23-year-old from Hamburg won the 50 backstroke on the first day in 28.55 but then had to settle for the runner-up spot in the 50 freestyle. Her time of 25.28 sandwiched her between fellow countrywomen Katrin Meissner and Simone Osygus. Day 2 saw her pull out of the 100 freestyle but cruise to victory in the 100 backstroke in 1:00.77.
Britain's 15-year-old Katy Sexton placed second in the 200, third in the 100, and fourth in the 50 backstrokes, setting British junior records in all three distances. Her 200 time of 2:10.31 placed her just 0.11 s behind 14-year-old Yoshiko Saito of Japan, lifting the two teenagers into the top 15 in the world.
Teenagers also upset the form books in the breaststroke events. Brigitte Becue, the European 100-m breaststroke record-holder from Belgium, was denied a double victory by an improved Junko Isoda. The 17-year-old from Japan had a personal best of 2:28.98, which she improved to 2:25.82, setting the pace from the half-way stage.
The men's breaststroke events had the two fastest men over the 200-m short course. But 17-year-old Adam Whitehead, from Coventry, England, was not put off by the reputation of Australians Phil Rogers, the Commonwealth 100-m champion, and Ryan Mitchell. Mitchell was in control throughout with Rogers holding onto second place until the final metres, when he was overtaken by a very strong finish by the British teenager. Whitehead, the European junior silver medallist, snatched the runner-up spot from Rogers by just 1/100 of a second with a time of 2:12.26.
The Aussie pair of Mitchell and Rogers were no match for Sweden's world short-course champion Patrik Isaksson over the 50 and 100 distances. Isaksson won the 50 and 100 breaststrokes with times of 27.84 and 1:00.30.
Olympic, world, and Commonwealth champion Susie O'Neill, AUS, showed her supremacy in the 200 butterfly, finishing in 2:07.00, ahead of Denmark's Mette Jacobsen. Jacobsen, the European champion, turned the tables in the 50 and 100 butterfly events, showing her speed with times of 27.17 and 59.19 respectively. Jacobsen had a 14-point cushion at the top of the butterfly category after this fifth leg of the World Cup series.