4 October 2012
Olympic champions Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos led the way as South African swimmers shone in the first leg of the Fina World Cup, which ended at the Hamdan bin Mahommed bin Rashid Sports Complex in Dubai on Wednesday.
In the first of two days of action, Van der Burgh sprinted to victory in the 50m breaststroke, clocking 26.64 seconds. His training partner Guilio Zorzi was second in an impressive 26.91 and New Zealand’s Glenn Snyders third in 27.04.
“That was a South African 1-2-3 for us, as Snyders was born in South Africa!” said Van der Burgh after his win.
On day two, he secured a breaststroke double by winning the 100 metres in 58.33 seconds. Snyders pushed him hard for the win, eventually taking second in 58.42, while Germany’s Marco Koch just edged out South African Neil Versfeld by 0.01sec to claim the bronze in 58.90.
Le Clos has had a packed schedule since the Olympic Games, making numerous appearances, which left him with not much preparation time for Dubai, but he stood up to be counted once again as he raced to his first gold of the World Cup Series in the men’s 200m butterfly.
Ironically, it was in the very same pool where his climb to stardom began when he won the 200m butterfly at the World Short Course Championships in December 2010.
Le Clos took victory in the event again, but it didn’t come easily, with Daiya Seto of Japan pushing him hard all the way. The South African touched the wall in 1:51.61 to edge out Seto by just a-tenth-of-a-second.
Later, he was second in the shorter 50m butterfly, touching the wall in 22.86 seconds. Victory went to Kenya’s Jason Dunford in 22.77, with Roland Schoeman third in 22.94.
On day two, Le Clos put in a brilliant final turn and sprint to the finish to break the magical 50-second barrier in the 100m butterfly with a time of 49.82 seconds. It was a result that clearly excited him.
Fellow Olympian Darian Townsend opened his account with a fifth place in the 100 metres freestyle and followed that up with third place in the 100 metres individual medley (IM) on the first day of competition. On day two, he raised the bar.
He was the first of the South Africans to strike gold on the second day, winning the 200 metres freestyle, after taking the race to his opponents in the first 50 metres, in a fast 1:42.71 seconds. Australia’s Robert Hurley charged hard for home and came home in second in 1:43.37.
Townsend added a second gold medal to his personal haul in the 200m IM. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh led the South African star through the first three legs, but Townsend put in an excellent final 50 metres freestyle to pull away to victory in an excellent 1:53.25. Japan’s Daiya Seto came through to take second in 1:53.90.
“I am thrilled with these two wins,” Townsend afterwards. “I really enjoy short course racing and it can only get better from here.”
Roland Schoeman began the South African medal run with a third place finish in the 100m freestyle on the opening day of competition. He felt a bit off colour and was somewhat disappointed with his time of 47.24 seconds, but it was a solid effort.
Australia’s Kenneth To won in 46.89, with Anthony Irvin of the USA second in 47.04.
Schoeman added another bronze in the 50m butterfly and was fourth in the 50m freestyle in 21.65.
Kathryn Meaklim picked up a bronze medal in the women’s 400m IM where she raced hard to clock an encouraging 4:38.92. She also finished fourth in the 200m IM and was fifth in the 100m IM.
Gerhard Zandberg was fifth in the 50m backstroke and sixth in the 100m IM, while Neil Versfeld was fifth in the 50m breaststroke, fourth in the 100m and fifth in the 200m.
Tara Nicholas finished fourth in the women’s 50m breaststroke. She swam a personal best 1:09.53 to take fifth in the 100m, and was sixth in the 200m in 2:34.99.
The swimmers move onto Doha, Qatar, for the second leg of the Fina Arena World Cup series that take place on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.
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