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Day 4 Report : Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships

Apr 6, 2000  - Neville Smith

Helene Cracks Second National Record

Helene Muller (Vaal Triangle) continued her surge up the world 200m freestyle rankings with her second South African record in the space of 24 hours, but more importantly, she rubber-stamped her inclusion in the South African Olympic squad to travel to Sydney in September.

Six South African records - from five different swimmers - have fallen at these Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships at Kings Park and there is every indication that more will follow if Wednesday night's events are any indication.

Minutes before Muller continued her record run by capturing the 200m gold in 2min 00.35sec, Roland Schoeman (Northern Tigers) showed him to be the genuine article when taking an exciting men's 100m freestyle semi-final in 49.91sec, shaving seven-hundredths of a second off his existing mark. Schoeman became the ninth South African to crack the stiff Olympic qualifying standard this week, and in the same semi, defending champion Ryk Neethling (Free State) made it his third achievement (100, 200 and 400m freestyle) with a lifetime best of 49.93. Nick Folker(KZN) (50.35) and Brendan Dedekind(KZN) (50.54) are the other top seeds for tomorrow nights final which promises to be one of the highlights of the week, with that quartet looking medal candidates in the 4x100m in Sydney.

Yet it has been a week that Muller, these days based in Nebraska, will never forget.

When the reality of her 2:00.35 touch at the pad had finally sunk in she understandably struggled to hold back the tears and was warmly embraced by silver medallist Kim van Selm (KZN)(2:02.81). Kirsten van Heerden (KZN)(2:05.16) held off National surf lifesaving captain Stacey Bowley (KZN) (2:06.27) to take the bronze in a race which saw Muller dominate from the gun.

Muller's 2:00.99 on Tuesday had represented a quantum leap in her performance graph and last night she even managed to top that swim. On target throughout the four legs, she somehow managed to keep going when the body had cried "enough".

The devout, emotional Christian could only put her victory down to her faith. "That was what God had planned for me. I can only go out there to glorify Him," she said.

Muller cracked the top 20 based on last year's rankings, her spanking new record - swum using the much talked-about full-length (minus the arms) Speedo Fast suit - slotting her in at 13th, with the promise of more to come.

Minutes earlier, Schoeman had made his statement of intent.

The last time he swam in this country it was still a matter of "Roland Who?", but that has all changed in the space of two years and the Arizona-based 21-year-old showed why he's going to become a household name in the immediate future.

Schoeman heads the world rankings in the 50m freestyle, but he's also charging up them in the 100, his 49.91 in last night's semi-finals pushing him into the top 20, based on the 1999 rankings.

Theo Verster (KZN) collected his first South African title of the week, a 2:02.44 in the men's 200m butterfly being marginally quicker than the time he clocked here last year. The medley specialist who posted an Olympic qualifying time for the 200IM at the New South Wales Championships during January this year moved into the lead from the start and despite the 'jocking for position' behind him was never seriously challenged. His teammate and training partner Graham MacFarlane (2:04.84) was too strong for Cape Town schoolboy Raazik Nordien (2:04.87) as he out touched him for the silver medal.

Nordiens' achievement was an excellent one when one bears in mind that he is the first black swimmer to win a medal at the South African long course championships. Zaida Jardien won bronze in the 100m & 200m Breastroke events at last years' SA Short Course Championships in Johannesburg. Both swimmers have been 'fast tracked' and have been on a number of overseas trips as part of Swimming South Africa