Fine performances by African athletes highlighted the first session of the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup 2012 series which got underway at the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday morning.
The men’s 100m freestyle saw some pulsating racing with South African Olympic gold medallist Darian Townsend providing the fireworks with a scintillating win in heat 7 which sees him advance to the final seeded second with a respectable 48,05 ahead of compatriot Roland Schoeman (48,07) who was edged in heat 8 by the Australian ace Tom Dorsonga who looked impressive in posting a 47,70.
With less than a second separating the top seven finalists the scene is set for an explosive showdown on Tuesday evening. Australian Kyle Richardson (48,26) a shade ahead of compatriot Kenneth To and US legend Anthony Irvine both had to settle for a 48,29 while Thomas Shields (USA) (48,59) and Kenyan Jason Dunford (48,88) complete the line up.
The men’s 50m breaststroke saw four South Africans advance to the final with their compatriot, the evergreen Gerhard Zandberg just missing a place in the final after posting a respectable 28,16 that saw him finish in 9th spot.
Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Cameron van den Burgh threw down the challenge to the other competitors when he posted a fast 27,06 ahead of compatriots, the versatile Roland Schoeman (27,21) and promising Guilio Zorzi (27,33) with only Kiwi Glen Snyder’s (27,42) holding out stalwart Neil Versfeld (27,43) to see four South Africans advance to the final in the top five participants. They will be joined by Sergey Geybel (Rus)(27,43), Marco Koch (Ger) (27,50) and Sean Mahoney (USA) (27,77).
The ladies 100m breaststroke saw South Africa’s promising Tara Nicholas (1:10,00) advance to the final seeded fifth behind the Swedish duo of Joline Hoestman (1:07,46) and Jennie Johansson (1:09,75) and Japanese duo of Furniko Kawanabe (1:08,41) and Miku Kanasashi (1:09,81). The imposing Nicholas is sure to pull out all the stops in the final and should definitely be considered a podium contender.
In the men’s 100m backstroke, stalwart Zandberg was well off the pace posting a 54,17 to finish in 12th place well off Russian ace Stanislav Donets who heads an auspicious field with an impressive 50,69 well ahead of his nearest contenders, Australian Ashley Delaney (52,33) and Thomas Shields (52,41) from the USA.
Japan’s Diaya Seto laid down the mark in the 200m butterfly when he won heat 1 in a time of 1:58,73 to claim bragging rights going into the final. Olympic gold medallist, Chad le Clos is seeded second after posting a 2:00,20 to claim honours in heat 2 well off his best. The likeable South African is sure to step up a gear in the final and should extend the field that includes Sweden’s Olov Sjoedin and Hungarian legend Laszio Cseh.
Katherine Meaklim held the South African flag high in the 200m Individual Medley when she secured 5th place going into the final after finishing second in the 1st heat in a time of 2:16,64 behind Ukrainian, Ganna Dzerkal (2:15,75). The pace setters all came out of the second heat with the Hungarian duo of Katinka Hosszu (2:14,77) and Zsuzsanna Jakobos (2:15,65) and Austrian Jordis Steinegger (2:15,78) setting the pace.
Neil Versfeld claimed the eighth place in the men’s 200m breaststroke final with a time of 2:15,65 but will have to pull out all the stops if he is to challenge top seeds Sean Mahoney (USA) (2:08,19), Marco Koch (Ger) (2:09,32) and Daiya Seto (Jpn)(2:09,95) for podium honours.
Darian Townsend continued his fine form in the men’s 100m Individual Medley posting a 53,43 to go into tonight’s final seeded second behind Australian Kenneth To (53,37), while compatriot Gerhard Zandberg (54,44) who qualified in 7th place is sure to up the ante and could provide some surprises in the final. Another South African, Guilio Zorzi claimed 9th place in a time of 56,80.
The men’s 50 butterfly event promises to be a “crackerjack” affair with stalwart Roland Schoeman having thrown down the challenge to the rest of the field when he posted a fast 23,03 to lead the field convincingly ahead of Kenya’s Jason Dunford (23,10) and compatriot Chad le Clos (23,29). Once again Zandberg was unlucky to make the final when he place 9th in a time of 24,21 while Neil Watson claimed 12th place in a time of 24,50.
The FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup 2012 will see a winner’s purse of over US$ 1.2 million in prize money up for grabs to the best swimmers during the series. The Dubai event is the first in a nine event series, which will see participants, compete in Doha (QAT, October 6-7), Stockholm (SWE, October 13-14), Moscow (RUS, October 17-18), Berlin (GER, October 20-21), Beijing (CHN, November 2-3), Tokyo (JPN, November 6-7) and Singapore (SIN, November 10-11).
Source: Neville Smith