Returning to the pool for the first time since the London Olympics, T&T’s George Bovell swam a time of 52.19 seconds to claim silver in the 100 metres individual medley at the two-day FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, yesterday. Bovell finished behind Australian Kenneth To, who took gold in 51.43, while South African Darian Townsend placed third in 52.60 seconds. His silver medal winning performance was 0.22 seconds off his lifetime best recorded at the World Championships, last year.
However, the T&T 2008 Olympic silver medallist could not muster similar success in the 50m breaststroke, as he ended his chance of medalling, finishing fifth in 29.87 in heat four, which saw him eliminated in 17th overall at the preliminary stage. The gold medal eventually went to event favourite Cameron van der Burgh who clocked an incredible 26.64 finish. South African Guilil Zorzi (26.91) and Glenn Snyders (27.04) of New Zealand finished second and third, respectively. Bovell, who is rated as the most successful swimmer in the Caribbean, will be back in action today in the 50m backstroke event. His qualifying time of 24.88 put him in lane two of preliminary heat six of six.
Later, he will contest the 50m freestyle event in lane four, in heat seven of eight after qualifying for the preliminary stage in a time of 21.29. At the London Olympics, Bovell finished seventh in the 50m freesyle final in 21.82 seconds. Meanwhile, Britta Steffen found herself chased by two elite men’s swimmers, holding on to a lead that was quickly shrinking. In the sport’s first top-level event featuring both genders, Steffen made sure it was ladies first. The German held off two fast-charging male swimmers to anchor her country to victory in a mixed 4x50-metre medley relay at a short-course World Cup meet that provided exactly the kind of drama organisers had been hoping for. Germany gambled by putting Steffen — a world record-holder in the 50m freestyle — on the final leg, but it proved to be a successful tactic as her teammates gave her a lead of half a pool length. Hungary’s Krisztian Takacs and Ukraine’s Sergii Frolov took off after her and closed the gap, but Steffen made sure Germany won by a comfortable margin.
Germany finished in one minute, 43.21 seconds, 2.10 seconds faster than Hungary. Ukraine was a further .58 seconds back. “I only wanted to give my best and I did,” said Steffen, surrounded by her other three teammates before they received a gold medal on the first day of the two-day meeting. A mixed freestyle relay is scheduled for today. The mixed relays, which feature two men and two women on each team, is being introduced at all eight World Cup meetings this season in what the sport’s governing body FINA says is a bid to move the sport forward. If they prove successful, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said mixed relays could be part of the programme at the short-course world championship in December.