Monterrey 2008, Day 4: Russia joins USA at top of medals table with five gold; amazing win for Sokolova in women's 400 free

FINA World Junior Swimming Championships


On Day 4 (July 11) of the 2nd FINA World Junior Swimming Championships being held in Monterrey (MEX) from July 8-13, 2008, Russia joined the USA at the top of the medal tally with five gold. As described below, Elena Sokolova (RUS) winning the 400m freestyle in an amazing time, was among the day's highlights.

PRELIMINARIES
Seven Championships records were set in the morning session. In the women’s 50m backstroke both the two fastest semi-finals qualifier, Elizabeth Pelton (USA, 1993) and Etiene Medeiros (BRA, 1991) swam under the previous mark, respectively in 29.18 and 29.29. Same thing in the men’s 50m butterfly for Ivan Lendjer (SRB, 1990) and Daniel Bell (NZL, 1990), who swam the distance in 24.12 and 24.17 respectively.

Russia’s Elena Sokolova (1991), already winner of the 800m freestyle in Monterrey, set the fastest qualifying time for the final in the 400m freestyle, in 4:12.82, a Championships record. With this feat, she was poised for her second title in Monterrey.

Germany’s Marco Koch was the fastest in the men’s 200m breaststroke in the new Championships record time of 2:14.97.

The last Championships record of the preliminaries was set by the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay of Great Britain, with 7:26.26. The quartet was formed by Chris Walker-Hebborn 1:51.06, Thomas Parris 1:50.67, Jack Dunn 1:52.62 and Ryan Bennett 1:51.91.

SEMI-FINALS
Australia’s Grace Loh (1991), of Asian origin, was the fastest qualifier in the women’s 50m backstroke, with the time 29.22. USA’s Elizabeth Pelton (1993) was the second qualifier, in 29.37, ahead of the Canadian pair Tess Simpson (1991, 29.50) and Hannah Riordan (1991, 29.61).

Daniel Bell (NZL, 1990), already a hero of these Championships, set the fastest qualifying time in the men’s 50m butterfly with 23.77 while swimming in the first semi-final, by far a new Championships record. His arch-rival, the Serbian Ivan Lendjer (1990), won the second semi-final with the second best time, 23.98.

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Elena Sokolova (RUS) - credit: Satiro Sodré

FINALS
What a fantastic duel between Russia’s Alexey Zinovyev (1990) and Germany’s Marco Koch (1990)! Zinovyev’s strategy paid off. For three laps he swam neck-to-neck with his rival, who had posted the fastest semi-finals time. Supported by a wide, round and clean stroke, Koch was in the lead for most of the race and seemed poised to win the event. Instead, after the last turn, Zinovyev’s pace increased until, in the final strokes, he manage to break the resistance of the rival and win in a new Championships record of 2:14.78. Kock’s time of 2:15.27 was good for silver, while Robert Holderness of Great Britain, took the bronze in 2:15.67

Overwhelming fury. That was Italy’s Silvia Di Pietro (1993) when she stormed to victory in perfect style in the women’s 50m butterfly in 26.77, lowering her fresh Championships record by 0.06 seconds. Her best challenger was France’s Mélanie Henique (1992) who clinched the silver medal in 27.09, ahead of Australia’s Ellese Zalewski (1991), 27.13.

Australia’s Benjamin Treffers, swimming in lane 5, clinched the men’s 50m backstroke title with 25.60, a new Championships record. He out touched Belarus’ Pavel Sankovich (1990, 25.93), (who had clocked the fastest semi-finals time with 25.89), and Russia’s Artem Dubovsky (1990, 26.17).

Samantha Marshall (1992), also from Australia, narrowly beat Mina Matsushima (1991) of Japan, for the women’s 100m breaststroke title at the end of a thrilling race. Both swimmers went under 1:09 and under the previous Championships record (1:09.20), clocking respectively 1:08.72 and 1:08.99. Two Russians, Ekaterina Baklakova (1992) and Olga Detenyuk (1993) came in 3rd and 4th place separated by just 0.09 seconds: 1:09.06 and 1:09.15 their respective times. Marshall, whose competitive story is young (“my major first meet was in January 2006”) lives in Sydney and is coached by Stephen Garner at the Cook and Phillips Club. She came 5th at the Australian trials, clocking a personal best of 1:08.42 (she was 4th in the 200 metres).

In the women’s 400m freestyle Russia’s Elena Sokolova (1991) went for a solitary and thrilling race, at an incredible pace, soon distancing herself from the rest of the field. The strength of her strokes could be felt by the audience. She finished in an amazing Championships record of 4:06.30 (996 points), her personal best by about 6 seconds, also the A qualifying time for Beijing. When she turned to the scoreboard she received a well deserved standing ovation. This was Sokolova’s second title here, after that she won earlier in the 800m freestyle. France’s Margaux Fabre (1992), and USA’s Katie Gardocki were a distant second and third, respectively in 4:12.44 and 4:13.00.
Sokolova, who is the reigning European Junior champion in this speciality, qualified for Beijing in the 800m freestyle at the Russian Trials. After tonight she is hopeful to be able to swim at the Olympics the 400m as well.

Born on 13 February 1991, Elena Sokolova lives in Moscow where she trains at the Olympic Centre for Aquatics under the direction of Ms. Oxana Simeonova. Elena says her idol is Laure Manaudou (“an amazing swimmer, almost unbeatable”).


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credit: Satiro Sodré

In the men’s 50m freestyle, Orinoco Faamausili added a third gold medal to the tally of New Zealand when he surprisingly dashed to victory with the time of 22.37 (962 points), new Championships record. Faamausili, who was swimming in lane 3, surprised the field with robust strokes and relentless action. Italy’s Luca Dotto (1990), from lane 2, and Luca Leonardi (1991), one of the favourite in lane 4, clinched the silver and the bronze, respectively with the time of 22.63 and 22.70. Faamausili, who was born on 31 July 1990, is coached by Glenn Hamblyn in Auckland, at the Mount Eden Swim Club. He will swim in Beijing in the 4x100m freestyle relay (“We hope to make the final there”). Orinoco’s origins are half Samoan (from mom’s side) and half English (from dad’s side). He got this name because his father liked the sound of it, knowing that it identified Venezuela’s major river.  Orinoco, who started to compete seven years ago, sees himself projected on top of world sprint (“both the 50m and the 100m free”) in the years to come.

The last individual race of the day, the women’s 200m IM, also saw a happy return to victory for USA’s Dagny Knutson (1992) who crushed the opposition finishing a couple of lengths ahead of the silver medallist in a new Championships record of 2:12.97. Knutson had already won two gold medals earlier in the meet, the 400m IM and the 800m freestyle relay. So far she is the meet’s most victorious swimmer, with three titles. Ellen Fullerton (AUS, 1992) and Victoria Andreeva (RUS, 1992) were 2nd and 3rd respectively, in 2:14.73 and 2:16.21. Knutson, who was born on 18 January 1992, lives and trains in Minot, South Dakota. She has been swimming competitively for seven years coached by Ms. Kathy Aspaas.

The programme concluded with the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay. The gold medal was clinched by Great Britain with the time of 7:20.18, a new Championships record. The British quartet was formed by Robert Bale (1990, 1:49.71), Thomas Parris (1991, 1:50.52), Ryan Bennett (1990, 1:50.37) and Chris Walker-Hebborn (1990, 1:49.58). The victory of the Britons came after a strenuous fight till the last stroke with a strong German team, who finished just 0.09 seconds behind, in 7:20.27! Japan clinched the bronze medal in 7:24.72, while Italy missed the podium by 0.02 seconds.