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Swim stars in Durban

Our 2012 Olympic Games swimming hopefuls take to the water at the SA International Invitational Swim meeting at the fast Kings Park Pool in Durban this weekend.

Heading the challenge will be world record holder Cameron van der Burgh who starts his test of form in his favourite event, the men’s 50-metre breaststroke.

Although this is not an Olympic event for the looming show in London later this year, Van der Burgh has kept his sights focused on the 100m breaststroke for London and will feature in this distance on Sunday.

The world record holder is usually in a league of his own over the 50m dash, but the 100m could see some pressure coming from South African teammate Neil Versfeld and Hungarian Akos Molnar.

The 200m breaststroke event looks set to be a three-way tussle between the Hungarian, Versfeld and Italian Federico Franciolini while the minor challenges are likely to come from another Hungarian David Verraszto, Van der Burgh if he competes and comeback dad Terence Parkin.

The 2000 Olympic silver medallist, Parkin said in an interview on the weekend that ÔÇ£this will be my last chance to perform and I have nothing to lose by trying out at the Olympic trials in April.ÔÇØ

There will be a huge following of the likeable Chad le Clos after his amazing success in the FINA World Cup events last year. The talented and versatile Durbanite will feature in the men’s 400m individual medley in his opening event where he lines up against Italian Federico Turrini and leading challenger Riaan Schoeman. This should prove an interesting affair.

A few events later, Le Clos tackles his favourite ÔÇô the 200m butterfly. Italians Niccolo Beni and Gabriele Landini, Hungarian Verraszto and South African youth star Dylan Bosch will form the chasing pack.

The men’s 200m freestyle is likely to show the tactical side of Le Clos once again. Up against the likes of Verraszto as well as JC Thomson, Balazs Zambo (Hungary) and the highly inform Jasper Venter, the strength of the final turn and finish is a pleasure to witness.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The mens 100m butterfly should see yet another victory for this rising star before he lines up for probably his toughest battle in the 200m IM.

Once more it will be Verraszto chasing him down together with Italian Turrini while South African support will come from Dylan Bosch, Michael Meyer and Riaan Schoeman.

The men’s backstroke events look set for some of the closest finishes of the two-day meet. Opening their challenge in a look-a-like national final is the evergreen Gerhard Zandberg, the improving Charl Crous, and a determined Darren Murray along with younger stars Neil de Villiers and Michael Meyer. ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Although Zandberg is expected to dominate the 50m event, the 200m backstroke will prove their fitness levels with all the swimmers still in heavy training.

It will be South Africans Meyer, Murray and Crous challenged by Hungarian Verraszto and Italian Turrini.

The glamour event though, always leans towards the mens 100m freestyle. Gideon Louw will be aiming at a solid performance and will be hoping to stay ahead of the younger Leith Shankland and Hungarian Krisztian Takacs.

Over the 50m dash, it looks set to be a two-way battle between Louw and Takacs.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Zimbabwean Kirsty Coventry will use the meet this weekend to start testing herself as she prepares for her third consecutive Olympic Games this year. The 28-year-old won three medals in Athens in 2004, a gold, silver and bronze, while in 2008 in Beijing she took four medals with her gold and three silvers.

The ‘Golden Girl’ of Zimbabwe will be competing in the women’s 200m individual medley in her opening event on Saturday where she comes up against Hungarian Zsuzsanna Jakabos while the South African challenge should be headed by the versatile Kathryn Meaklim with veteran Mandy Loots and Bianca Meyer also in the mix.

Coventry will then take to the water a few events later in the women’s 200m backstroke where her opposition will again come from Hungarian Jakabos although talented teammate Evelyn Verraszto could be the one to threaten more. Both have ample experience with the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games behind them.

Hungarian Verraszto heads a number of races, including the opening race of the two-day international, the women’s 800m freestyle. The 23-year-old star should bring out the best in 15-year-old Michelle Weber who is likely to be the only challenger.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿It will be a five-way challenge in the 400m IM where Jakabos heads the group with Coventry, Verraszto and Meaklim again, while Meyer always has the possibility of upsetting.

Other South African women expected to feature will be Karin Prinsloo in the freestyle and backstroke events, Vanessa Mohr in the butterfly and Suzaan van Biljon and Ronwyn Roper in the breaststroke events.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Prinsloo, who won eight medals at last year’s All Africa Games in Mozambique will be pushed hard in her opening event, the 200m freestyle.

Hungarian duo Agnes Mutino and Jakabos will be the ones to chase while Coventry is unlikely to be too far off the pace. In the 100m freestyle, Prinsloo will be challenging Mutina and Sylvia Florio (Italy) while in the 100m backstroke, it will be Olympian Coventry to chase.

The heats get under way at 9.30am while the finals take place at 5.30pm on both Saturday and Sunday.