The second evening of the Telkom South African swimming championships played out in hot humid conditions before an encouraging crowd at the Kings Park pool in Durban on Saturday.
With only the men's 200m freestyle semi finals scheduled for the program, the evenings competition comprised entirely of finals. Some close and exciting races were witnessed by the vocal crowd.
Women's 50m Freestyle
With Charlene Wittstock opting not to swim in the freestyle events and Chrissy Cech having not returned from the USA for this meet a number of new young faces appeared in their first senior national final.
Helene Muller (CGA) and Renate du Plessis (WP) were off the blocks in a flash. In the outside lanes Karen Lotter (NTS) in lane 7 lurked, while Melanie Greyling (KZN) in lane 1 surged. The 14-year-old Lauren Roets (NTS) shadowed her more illustrious competitors going into the last 15m and was in contention.
It was at this point that Muller seized the moment and claimed a comfortable victory in 26.12 ahead of du Plessis who went a 26.80. Greyling hung on to claim the bronze in 27.09, while the Northern Tigers duo of Lotter (27.11) and Roets (27.14) followed.
Muller said: "This race always freaks me out, it's such a prominent race and one to iron out all the bugs."
Men's 50m Freestyle
What a scintillating affair. Olympian Ryk Neethling (KZN) was out in a flash and it was always going to be a battle for the minor placing. Neethling came out in front of the pack and never looked like he would settle for anything but the gold, which he claimed comfortably in a time of 23.02.
With ten meters to go the battle for the minor placing was on. Nick Folker (KZN), Gerhard Zandberg (NTS) and Lynden Ferns (NP) matched each other stroke for stroke as they surged toward the finish.
Folker got the touch ahead of his rivals when he recorded a 23.43. Zandberg claimed the bronze in 23.44 while Ferns faded to secure fourth in 23.65 ahead of Hendrick Odendaal (WP) (23.68).
Neethling said after the race that he was satisfied with his performance.
"I'm not really considered to be a sprinter, but I am working hard to become one. "There is no other swimmer in the world that competed at the Sydney Olympics that has come down to a 23-second swim in the 50m free."
"It's the second race I've had since Monte Carlo in June last year and I'm pretty happy with my performance.
"I've started a new job in the States and my training time has been restricted somewhat. I've been working on various aspects of my race and it's starting to come together.
Women's 100m Breaststroke
In what was always going to be a battle for the minor placing it was Sarah Poewe (WP) who seized the moment a claimed the title in convincing fashion in a time of 1:08.65 from her provincial team mates, Ingrid Haiden, Ziada Jardine and Natalie Burke.
While Poewe surged into the lead it was Burke who held the advantage going into the turn, but a fast finish saw Haiden (1:11.94) edge out Jardine (1:12.30) for the minor medals, while Burke had to be content with fourth in a time of 1:13.43.
Stalwart Tanya Hildebrand (CGA) claimed fifth place in 1:13.89 after a lay off of three years and is sure to become a serious challenger in the months that lay ahead.
It was the best performance on the second session of finals at the Telkom national swimming championships in Durban but Olympian Sarah Poewe was far from happy with her time in winning the women's 100m breaststroke in 1:08.65. The 19-year-old Capetonian was barely out of the water at the end of her race when she was shaking her head and saying: "Not good enough" in reference to the fast qualifying time of 1:08.02 for the July Commonwealth Games in Manchester. "Although this was my first long-course race of the year I had expected a faster time," she said.
Men's 100m Breaststroke
So much was anticipated in this event, but unfortunately never materialised.
Brett Peterson (KZN) once again had an excellent start while Chris Stewart (CGA) was a man with a mission. Both former national champions had the crowd on its feet as they turn together and extended their lead over the field. The indomnible Terence Parkin (KZN) was always lurking while Louis Lotter the titleholder made his move in lane one.
With ten meters to go Kurt Muller (FS) was also in the picture with the crowd extremely vocal.
Peterson pulled out all the stops to claim the title in 1:02.20 with Stewart being rewarded with the silver in 1:02.79. Parkin powered his way to bronze in 1:03.35 with Lotter (1:04.49) edging out Muller (1:04.55)
Women's 200m Butterfly
Mandy Loots (CGA) retained her title in comfortable fashion when she won effortlessly in a time of 2:15.94.
Once again it was her promising training partner, the diminutive Lisa-Marie Retief who secured her second consecutive silver at the senior nationals when she posted a fast finishing 2:19.29 ahead of Western Province's Lana Piemontesi who claimed bronze in 2:21.06.
Sarah English (KZN) did well to claim fourth place after a fast finish in a time of 2:22.57 while Belinda Wood (WP) dropped off the pace and had to settle for fifth in 2:23.90.
Loots however was not happy.
"I'm definitely not happy with my time at all," said the SA record holder who swam a 2:10.78 at the last Olympics. "It's really tough when you're trying flat out for a fast time and the next swimmer is so far behind you. "I just wish the selectors would be more supportive of us who are trying to make these fast qualifying times. "Every year we are expected to prove ourselves over and over again."
Men's 200m Butterfly
National and Continental record holder Theo Verster (KZN) regained his title that he failed to defend at last year's Ellis Park meet when edged out title holder Raazik Nordien (WP) in the most exciting 200m butterfly event seen in South Africa for years.
The stalwart Verster held the advantage from the gun with Andrew Hogg (WP) sitting on his shoulder for the first 75m. Verster made a break going into the turn but Nordien hunted him down and with 50m to go an upset was on the cards.
Verster however dug deep and reclaimed his title in a time of 2:02.62 with Nordien posting a pb of 2:03.48. Hogg took the bronze in 2:06.32 ahead of Kenneth Smith (KZN) who for the fourth consecutive year had to settle for fourth place. Smith's time of 2:07.32 was his seasons.
The promising 16 year old Dustin Dale (CGA) had an excellent last 100m and claimed fifth place in 2:08.24.
A delighted Nordien had this to say after the race.
"This was my best time ever, and I went flat out to catch Theo, but, geez, he's fast!"
Men's 200m Freestyle semi-final
Not much can be seen into tonight's 200m freestyle semi final with all swimmers that have finaled having swum very close races.
James Wilcox (WP) goes into tomorrow nights final as the top seed having posted a 1:55.39 in what was an close finish with Swiss national Dominik Meichtry (CGA) (1:55.41), Marius Momberg (WP) (1:55.50) and Brett Wood (WP) (1:55.85) in the second semi.
Sarel Lamprecht (FS) won the first semi in 1:56.08 after a close tussle with Stephan Ackermann (KZN) (1:56.26) and Rudolf Wagenaar (WP) (1:57.13).
Women's 200m Backstroke
Charlene Wittstock (KZN) claimed victory in an exciting tussle with her promising club mate Melissa Corfe.
Wittstock had built up a significant lead at the halfway mark and the result was never in doubt, however Corfe had an awesome last 100m (1:09.54/1:10.54) and closed the gap significantly to claim the silver in a respectable 2:17.11.
Wittstock's winning time was 2:15.80 while Romy Altmann (WP) fell off the pace a tad to claim the bronze in 2:19.16.
Men's 200m Backstroke
In a clash of the "young guns" it was George du Rand (FS) who upset pre race favourite Gareth McGee (KZN) to claim the title.
Swimming from lane 1, du Rand was out in a flash and held a significant advantage after the first 100m when he turned on a 1:00.94 with McGee, Jeff Norton (KZN) and Carl Marais (NTS) playing catch up.
Norton surged but a determined du Rand held on to claim the title in 2:05.98. Norton had to settle for the silver in 2:06.06 a tad ahead of the fast finishing Marais who snatched the bronze in 2:06.08. McGee was disappointing in 2:06.72 and had to settle for fourth place.
Telkom S A National Aquatic Championships Durban 12-17 April 2002 Day 2 Results Event 1 Women 50 LC Meter Freestyle =============================================================================== WORLD: # 24.13 22/09/2000Inge de bruijn at Olympic Game, NED Africa: # 25.90 22/06/1997Rania Elwany, EGY S A: * 25.94 09/04/2000Hel