RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 21-22, 1998 - The expanded 1999 FINA World Cup got underway with Brazilian stars Gustavo Borges and Fernando Scherer providing excitement for their home fans in the very first event-the 100 freestyle.
With 192 competitors taking part in this first of a 12-stage World Cup, the competition has grown over the past few years to cover five continents-South and North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
Like so often in their decade-old rivalry, Borges beat out Scherer with a time of 48.33 in the 100. Argentina's rising new sprint star Jose Martin Meolans touched second with 48.94 after taking an early lead and turning first at the 50. Scherer had to settle for third in 49.21.
Back in heavy training, world record-holder Ian Thorpe (AUS) did not expect a fast time in the men's 400 freestyle. However it was clear he was playing with the race as he let other swimmers take the early lead, coasting up to the first 200 with a 1:55.18 in third place. Then the "Thorpedo" turned it on and moved easily into the lead to touch first with 3:46.28 (1:51.10 for the second 200). Luiz Lima (BRA) was second with 3:47.18 and Yann de Fabrique (FRA) third with 3:47.69.
The highlight of the second day was the men's 200 freestyle where Borges was to meet Thorpe. It was a strategic race, with Thorpe in second throughout the first half (53.1) and then moving just ahead of Borges over the second 100, touching at the finish in 1:46.26. Borges clocked 1:47.42 for second, and de Fabrique was third with 1:47.65.
Sweden's Johanna Sjoberg had one of the top swims with her win in the women's 100 butterfly (59.65). After an easy win in the 100 freestyle (54.61), Sue Rolph (GBR) added wins in the 100 IM (1:02.21) and 200 IM (2:14.09), and picked up a second in the 50 free.
Fabiola Molina (BRA) upset Cathleen Rund (GER) in the 100 back. Molina won with 1:02.11 (just 3/100ths off her national record) while Rund placed second with 1:02.57. Kelly Denner (AUS) scored points with wins in the 50 (33.08) and the 100 breast (1:10.75). The 15-year-old was on her first international tour team.
Although host country Brazil topped the participants with 108, the Australian team of 5 men and 3 women had the most golds with 10, followed by the Germans with 9, and Brazil with 5. The second final session on Sunday morning had live TV coverage for the two-and-a-half-hour duration of the session. Swimming is the third most popular sport on televison in Brazil, behind football and volleyball. The potential audience is between 30 and 40 million viewers.
Brazilian records bettered: Men's 1500 free 14:57.87 by Luiz Lima, also South American men's 200 breaststroke 2:15.27 by Marcel Tomazini; men's 100 I.M. 56.69 by Stephan Baptista; women's 50 breaststroke 33.10 by Milene Comini; women's 200 breaststroke 2:32.35 by Flavia Sugimori in the prelims; women's 400 free 4:17.30 by Ana C. Muniz in the prelims; women's 100 I.M 1:04.84 by Fabiola Molina
Thanks to a new sponsorship by Centrum (vitamins), 2,000 reais (US $1,700) was awarded for a Brazilian record, 2,500r (US $2,125) for a South American record, and 50,000r (US $42,500) for a world record, with 20% for the coach. Records are assigned by competition; thus, a record in the prelims bettered again in the finals only counts once.