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French First For Castel In 200 Back

Dec 17, 2010  - Craig Lord

Dubai, world s/c championships, day 3 finals

Women's 200m Backstroke

Alexianne Castel delivered France's first gold in the long backstroke in the short pool with a confident and technically superb 2:01.67 victory over 15-year-old Melissa Franklin (USA), on an American record of 2:02.01, the bronze going to China's Zhou Yanxin in 2:03.22. That locked out Daryna Zevina (UKR), on 2:03.61.

The splits tells a tale of control and making the most of strengths, Castel, coached by Richard Martinez at Font Romeu, using each turn to gain a little on Franklin, who was swimming just as fast if not a little faster some of the time. 

"I'm very happy to win another gold for France," said Castel a day after the sprint crew won the 4x100m free relay. "The race was very competitive but I prepared well and I did my best because this is my speciality. The pool is magnificent."

The result:

  • Castel   29.22; 59.77;   1:30.63; 2:01.67
  • Franklin 29.01; 59.89;   1:31.31; 2:02.01
  • Zhou:    29.14; 1:00.73; 1:31.89; 2:03.22
  • Zevina:  29.57; 1:00.58; 1:32.32; 2:03.61
  • Sharon Van Rouwendaal (NED) 2:04.10
  • Simona Baumrtova (CZE) 2:06.05
  • Madison White (USA) 2:06.23
  • Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:06.74

Castel's time is the fastest ever by a swimmer in a textile suit.

History in the making:

World s/c Podiums

  • 2010: 2:01.67; 2:02.01; 2:03.22
  • 2008: 2:00.91; 2:02.60; 2:03.85
  • 2006: 2:05.29; 2:05.99; 2:06.96

Most world titles in this event:  2

  • Margaret Hoelzer (USA) 2004-08

Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)

  • WR: 2:00.18 Shiho Sakai (JPN) 14.11.09
  • TB: 2:01.67 Alexianne Castel (FRA) 03.12.10

Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 1, multiple

All-time textile rankings top 5:

  • 2:01.67 Castel Dubai 2010
  • 2:02.01 Franklin Dubai 2010
  • 2:03.22 Zhou Dubai 2010
  • 2:03.24 Nakamura 2008
  • 2:03.43 Hocking 2010

From the archive:

Before the 1957 ruling, when FNA drew a line and started the record books again after deciding that global standards could only be set in pools 50m long, three world marks were established by Eleanor Holm (USA). The Olympic crown she won was not the only thing she became famous for. Olympic champion in 1932 in the 100m backstroke, Eleonor Holm’s success, coupled with her good lucks, made her a popular choice with casting directors. "I was hardly dry at those Olympics when I was whisked from one studio to another - Warner Brothers, MGM, Paramount - to take screen tests," she told the New York Times in 1984. She looked set to put up a worthy defence of her crown in 1936 after setting world records in the 100m and 200m backstroke in 1935 and 1936 respectively. But a different fate awaited her. Holm travelled to Europe for the 1936 Games on the SS Manhattan with the intention of keeping her title. Having led a very active social life at the high end of society after her 1932 success and subsequent marriage in Beverly Hills to Art Jarrett, the singer and orchestra leader, third-class accommodation on her Olympic voyage was more than Holm was prepared to tolerate. Invited to a party in first class by the ship’s operators, Holm stayed up until the early hours drinking with the crew and members of the US media. US Olympic officials took umbrage and asked her to curtail her social activities. Her response: “I’m free, white and 22.” She later attended a champagne party when the ship was at port in France and collapsed in a drunken stupor in her room. A Dr Lawson, the US team doctor, examined the swimmer without her waking up. He concluded that she was suffering “acute alcoholism". The morning after, Holm was told that she had been removed from the US team. However, in the days when it was impossible simply to put her on the next plane home, Holm stayed on in Berlin. Holm caused a sensation when she emerged from the ship to complain that US Olympic officials had travelled first class and enjoyed fine food and wine every day while the athletes who had to compete had been treated like third-rate citizens. The Nazis treated her rather differently: she was invited to many a party attended by the upper echelons of the German regime and 36 years later told Sports Illustrated:  “I had such fun ... the parties, the Heil Hitlers, the uniforms, the flags ... Goering was fun. He had a good personality. So did the one with the club foot [Goebbels]. Goering gave me a sterling-silver swastika. I had a mould made of it and I put the diamond Star of David in the middle." Years after her brush with authority in 1936, Holm revealed: "This chaperone came up to me and told me it was time to go to bed. God, it was about 9 o'clock, and who wanted to go down in that basement to sleep anyway? So I said to her: `Oh, is it really bedtime? Did you make the Olympic team or did I?' I had had a few glasses of Champagne. So she went to [Avery] Brundage [who would be President of the IOC] and complained that I was setting a bad example for the team, and they got together and told me the next morning that I was fired. I was heartbroken." Her very colourful life came to an end in January 2004 at the age of 90.