EDMONTON, Nov 27-28 - The Speedo World Cup Organizing Committee spared no effort or expense to make this a memorable occasion. The magnificent Kinsmen Aquatic complex, the site of major international events for the past 20 years, has been modernized and the 10-lane 50 metre pool has been further widened to 25 m so that short course competitions may be staged across the starting end. Seating for several thousand is now possible on three sides and could be further expanded to 6,000.
Just over 220 competitors took part, with Canadians showing a strong presence (154). For those coming from the sunshine of Rio de Janeiro five days earlier, the winter conditions with snow on the ground were certainly an adjustment.
Australian star Ian Thorpe set the tone of the competition in the very first event (100 free) with his come-from-behind style; he touched first in 49.19 after trailing in third (24.10) for most of the four lengths. Lars Frolander (SWE) had the lead with a few metres to go but touched second in 49.31. Ryan Laurin (CAN), the leader for most the race (23.58), was third with 49.66.
In the 400 free, Thorpe showed why he's the short course world record holder. His amazing ability to control the first half and then move into high gear to swim away from all challengers in the last 100 is remarkable. Thorpe split 55.18, 1:53.28, 2:50.79, for a winning time of 3:46.05 to Jorg Hoffmann's (GER) 3:47.48 and Thomas Lohfink's (GER) 3:48.41. The following day "Thorpedo" swam a lead-from-the-start 200 freestyle, this time splitting 24.88, 51.51, 1:18.59, for a final time of 1:45.71.
Other men's highlights: Derya Buyukuncu of Turkey upset Canadian favourites in the 100 backstroke, leading for most of the race (26.02) and touching in 53.44. Canadian veteran Chris Renaud was second in 54.14 and teammate Mark Versfeld was third in 54.56.
Canadian Ryan Laurin fullfilled a life-long dream when he broke the National record in the 50 freestyle with a 22.15 prelim swim. At night he easily won the final with 22.45. A promising sprinter, whose progress was interrupted by a car accident, is now back on track.
Olympic champion Fred deBurghgraeve (BEL) was in great early-season form, winning the 100 breaststroke in 59.80 and the 50 breast in 27.50.
Philip Weiss won the 400 IM with 4:17.05 over top countryman Curtis Myden (4:19.17), with 16-year-old Brian Johns (CAN) third with 4:19.29. Johns then surprised everyone the following day in the men's 200 I.M. by beating Australian Robert Van Der Zant; Johns touched in 2:00.17 to Van Der Zant's 2:00.21.
In women's competition, Franziska van Almisck (GER) cruised to an easy win in the 200 free, leading for the eight lengths (splitting 27.57, 57.55, 1:28.00) to finish in 1:58.04. Joanne Malar (CAN) was second in 2:00.30 and Kate Brambley (CAN) third in 2:00.45. Top qualifier of the morning, Claudia Poll (CRC; 1:59.85), scratched from the final to swim in the 800 later in the session, where she finished third. Rachel Harris (AUS) won the event in 8:30.21, with Melissa Deary (USA) second with 8:35.12.
Van Almsick added her second win in the women's 100 butterfly with 1:00.59 over Hu Ning (CHN) with 1:00.90.
Germany's Antje Buschschulte swept all three backstroke events and staged an upset win in the 100 freestyle to be the most successful swimmer at the meet with four golds. In the 100 freestyle, Buschschulte touched first with 55.88, while Marianne Limpert (CAN) was second with 55.90; van Almsick challenged in the last few metres but finished third with 55.95.
Canada's Olympic silver medallist Marianne Limpert was a solid winner in the 200 IM in 2:12.99, leading a Canadian sweep of the top four spots as Ning Bo (CHN), an early challenger, faded to fifth. In second was Kristy Cameron (2:14.28), and Joanne Malar (CAN) was third with 2:14.36, followed closely by Carrie Burgoyne in 2:14.69. Malar came back for a win in the 400 I.M., touching in 4:38.92 with a half-a-pool lead.
In the women's 400 free, Melissa Deary (USA) upset world record-holder Claudia Poll with a come-from-behind win. Deary's time was 4:09.88. Still somewhat off form, Poll faded to second with 4:11.14, after a three second lead at the 200. Rachel Harris (AUS) was third with 4:12.09.