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SA swimmers struggle

Ryan Lochte of the United States set a championship record with his first swim on the opening day as South African swimmers battled at the 10th FINA World Short Course Championships in Dubai on Wednesday.

The American clocked 1:42.38 to win his 200m freestyle heat, getting his medal campaign off to a winning start by shattering the previous long-standing record of 1:43.28 set by Australia’s Ian Thorpe in Hong Kong in 1999.

“It was a good race. My first race is usually my worst, but I was lucky enough to win this one. I’m excited for tonight’s final – it’s going to be great with so many good competitors in the line-up,” said Lochte.

Seven other swimmers also eclipsed Thorpe’s mark, including Tunisia’s Oussama Mellouli, who finished as second-fastest qualifier with a time of 1:42.41.

“I felt really good. The pool is great and the atmosphere is fantastic. The 200m free isn’t really my event, but I’m just planning to race these guys as hard as I can and see what happens,” said Mellouli.

The other individual championship record of the morning went to Italy’s Fabio Scozzoli of Italy who swam 57.60 to set a new mark in the 100m breaststroke.

“I felt great. All of the morning’s fatigue is gone. It’s a beautiful pool – stupendous. It’s strange to find yourself swimming in the middle of the desert. I hope to continue to perform along these lines,” said Scozzoli.

In the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay heat, Russia made their intentions clear, also setting a new championship mark of 3:07.78.

The relay heats saw another piece of history being made with the home team from the United Arab Emirates, being made up of four brothers. “I’m so proud of what we’ve done and happy we will be in history. It’s what we have dreamt of,” said the oldest of the brothers, Obaid Al Jasmi. We did our best in the race and did a good time. But the most important thing is that we represented the UAE.”

In the 100m backstroke, Russia’s Stanislav Donets swam the second-best time of the season in 50.18. Kenya’s Jason Dunford also swam the second-best time of this season with 50.38 in the 100m butterfly.

“I think there is a good chance that world records will be broken, perhaps not in this event but in others there’s a really good shot as the pool is very fast because of the depth,” said Dunford.

In the women’s events, Spain’s Mireia Belmonte Garcia got off to a superb start by winning both her heats – in the 200m butterfly (2:04.84) and the 400m individual medley (4:32.37).

There were nine South Africans competing in the morning heats, with only two qualifying for the evening semi-finals.

In the women’s 100m backstroke, Chanelle van Wyk swam in the last heat, so she had a fair idea of the time she needed to swim in order to go through. She qualified 13th fastest in a time of 58.89 seconds, 1.56 seconds behind top qualifier Melissa Franklin of the United States.

Leone Vorster managed the 24th-fastest time (1:00.09), not enough to see her through to the evening semifinal.

Cameron van der Burgh did not stretch himself in the men’s 100m breaststroke, his qualifying time of 58.69 a full three seconds off his own world record set in Berlin in November last year. His time was the 10th fastest of the morning.

In the same event, Grant Diering could manage only the 32nd-fastest time.

In the women’s 400m individual medley, Kathryn Meaklim (4:36.93) finished 10th fastest, missing qualification for the final by just 1.34 seconds. Jessica Pengelly (4:39.08) came in two spots further back.

Others who failed to make it through their heats were Chad le Clos, Garth Tune and Amanda Loots.