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Stars head for PE

In an international swim-fest Spain, Zimbabwe, Germany, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Great Britain and the USA will join Brazil and South Africa in the hunt for medals at the inaugural SA International Invitational Swimming Meet at the Newton Park Swimming Pool on 29-30 January 2011.
Spain’s Mireia Belmonte will be hoping to continue where she left off from the 2010 FINA World Short Course Championships where she won three gold medals in the 200m and 400m individual medley (Championship Records) and the 200m butterfly as well as a silver in the 800m freestyle.

Mireia’s team mates, Conchi Badillo, who claimed silver in the 100m breaststroke at the 2010 Spanish Open, Eloi Saumell, who won bronze in the 200m freestyle at the Spanish Open, as well as Alex Sanchez will be looking to make their country proud during the international challenge.

With the fastest entry time of 24.49 seconds in the 50m backstroke, USA’s Randall Bal will be up against some tough competition in the likes of SA’s Gerhard Zandberg and the current world record holder Liam Tancock from Great Britain. Bal will also be racing in the 100m backstroke and 50m freestyle.

As part of the British team, Tancock, who also holds the Commonwealth record in the 100m backstroke, will be in the water in the 50 and 100m freestyle as well as the 100m backstroke.

Francesca Halsall and Elizabeth Simmonds will also be making the trip to South Africa for the first international event on the 2011 calendar. Halsall holds the European record in the 100m freestyle and achieved three medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India (gold in the 50m butterfly, silver in the 50m freestyle and bronze in the 100m freestyle).

Simmonds, participating in the 50m and 200m backstroke, 100m breaststroke, 50m butterfly and 200m individual medley, is currently the European gold medallist in the 200m backstroke, where she also claimed the silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Great Britain will also be represented by the highly experienced Ross Davenport, who claimed two gold and two silver medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Grant Turner and Lowri Tynan, who holds the Welsh records in the 50m and 100m breaststroke.

Tunisia’s Ahmed Mathlouthi, who is no stranger to South Africa, having won three bronze medals at the 2008 ninth African Senior Championships in Johannesburg, will be competing in the 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle as well as the 200m individual medley.┬áMathlouthi recently competed in the 10th African Senior Championships in Morocco, where he claimed two gold medals and a silver medal.

Venezuela’s Ernesto Crox will be making his way to South Africa with two gold medals from the recent South American Games. Crox will be swimming in the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle as well as the 50m butterfly at the inaugural event.

George Bovell from Trinidad and Tobago claimed the JAX 50 Sprint Challenge in Florida last year as well as a gold medal at the Spanish Open in the 50m freestyle. Bovell will be looking for even faster times when he competes in the 50 and 100m freestyle as well as the 50m backstroke.

The three man strong German team will see Benjamin Starke, Yannick Lebherz and Marco Koch compete for honours in South Africa. Starke is the current German record holder in the 100m butterfly while Koch holds the German record in the 200m breaststroke and will be looking forward to his race with SA’s Neil Versfeld.

Lebherz is currently the European champion in the 200m backstroke and runner up at the European Short Course Championships in the 400m individual medley, where he also holds the German record.

Representing Zimbabwe will be Olympian Kirsty Coventry. As the world record holder in the 200m backstroke and having the fastest seeding time of 2:05.83, Coventry will be up against Elizabeth Simmonds (2:12.00) and Fernanda Alvarenga (2:16.53). Coventry also holds the African records in the 200m freestyle, 50, 100 and 200m backstroke as well as the 200 and 400m individual medley.

The heat sessions of the swimming will take place at the Newton Park Swimming Pool on January 29-30 from 9.30am with the final sessions beginning at 5.30pm. Entrance to watch the swimming is free of charge.