All Eyes On LEN European Swimming Championships That Begin Monday In Hungary

All Eyes On LEN European Swimming Championships That Begin Monday In Hungary


August 8, 2010

University of Miami’s Annika Saarnak, a rising swimmer from Estonia, is among an impressive field for the LEN European Swimming Championships that begin Monday in Budapest, Hungary.

The UM senior and Estonia national record holder will compete in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.

At the 2009 European Short Course Championships, she set the national 100-meter freestyle record in a career-best 54.78 in Istanbul, Turkey.

“I am really proud of her,” said UM coach Christie Shefchunas. “She’s been training hard all summer and I am excited to see what she does. This is definitely getting our program more international attention.”

Last season Saarnak held the top seven times in the 50 and 200 freestyles and top six fastest marks in the 100 freestyle at UM.

First-year UM assistant coach Shaun Zitani will coach her in Budapest.

The European Aquatics Championships is organized by LEN, the governing body for aquatics in Europe. The open water, diving and synchronized swimming events have already been held.

The long course pool events get under way Monday with all eyes on how swimmers adjust to the “fabric” suits now that the neck-to-ankle bodysuits have been banned since Jan. 1. It is the first major international meet since the ban.

FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu has already said the world records set with the aid of bodysuits will remain in the record books untouched and unmarked. Swimmers are already close to world-record pace according to Nory Kruchte, president of European swimming’s governing body.

“The evolution of swimming will adapt to the actual swimsuit situation,” Kruchte said during the FINA delegates meeting in January in Bangkok. “Coaches and swimmers will adapt and we will have very good performances.”

Men will be allowed only to use briefs, waist-to-knee swimsuits or jammers and women shoulder-to-knee suits made of textile fabric and not polyurethane used in the bodysuits. FINA is committed to not changing the current suit rules until after London 2012 at the earliest.

Four world records were set using bodysuits at the 2006 European Championships in Budapest while 43 world marks were broken at last year’s world championships in Rome. Nineteen of the recognized 20 European women’s records were set in Rome. Of the women’s world bests, 15 were posted in Rome.

In the 20 men’s events, 14 world and 14 European records were set.

The field is loaded with several world record holders including Paul Biedermann of Germany, Rafael Munoz of Spain, Federica Pellegrini of Italy and Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain.

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, is the hometown favorite and looking for his third consecutive European title in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 400 IM.

Biederman, 24, told reporters in Germany that he feels “like a naked snail” without the full body suit. He broke two world records last summer with it. He also predicted no world records will be broken this week. Biederman is expected to be in the first final held Monday, the 400-meter freestyle.

Added Pellegrini, “forget the world record, there will be none. With the goodbye to suits so many things have changed. That’s fine with me. I have always been in favor of eliminating the super body.”

Adlington, a double Olympic gold medalist, will head a 35-swimmer contingent from Great Britain, coached by former U.S. national team coach Dennis Pursley. The British are determined to make waves at the 2012 London Olympics. While expected to be competitive this week, the main emphasis is on the Commonwealth Games in October in India.

Adlington and backstroke world champion Liam Tancock will wear Speedo’s LZR Racer Elite suit fully compliant with FINA’s new regulations. It is made from ultra-lightweight Pulse fabric.

Some of the most anticipated matchups for the British are Fran Halsall against Therese Alshammar, 32, of Sweden in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle; Tancock against Aschwin Wildeboer of Spain in the 50- and 100-meter backstroke; and Lizzie Simmonds against Russian Anastasia Zueva in the backstroke events.

The Brits were dealt a blow when two-time Olympian James Goddard, who leads the European rankings in the 200 backstroke and 200 IM withdrew from the championships with a flu-like virus ending a much-anticipated matchup against Cseh.

For the European Championships, the Brits did not have a training camp before the meet.

“We are not doing for Budapest what we would normally do for the Olympics and what we will do for the Commonwealth Games,” Pursley said. “We are allowing our people to arrive in staggered groups and some will come in, race and fly home. Our core group will be there throughout the week.”

A record-high 591 swimmers from 43 European countries will compete for 61 titles over seven days.


Russia swept all four categories after winning the free combination event on Sunday at the European Championships. Russia scored 98.300 points to finish ahead of Spain 97.000 and the Ukraine 94.100.

Natalia Ischenko partnered Svetlana Romashina won the synchronized pairs title.

Ischenko helped the triple Olympic champions Russia win the team title on Saturday after winning the solo title.

Ischenko and Romashina won the duo’s title with 98.700 points, knocking off reigning European pairs champions Spain (96.700), represented by Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes and Ukraine’s Daria Iushko and Kseniya Sydorenko (93.400).


Valerio Cleri of Italy won the 25K open water title in 5 hours, 16 minutes and 38.3 seconds. Frenchman Bertrand Venturi was second 16.4 seconds out of first and Joanes Hedel, also of France, was third.

Olga Beresnyeva of Ukraine won the women’s 25-kilometer open water race in a photo finish in her 25K debut. Beresnyeva touched first to beat Angela Maurer of Germany by just 0.1 seconds, finishing in 5 hours, 48 minutes, 10.2 seconds. Martina Grimaldi of Italy was third, 20.6 seconds back.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Oliver, Sell And Cooper Compete At Junior Nationals That Begin Monday in Irvine

SOFLO’s Oliver, Sell And Cooper Compete At Junior Nationals That Begin Monday in Irvine


August 8, 2010

While most age group swimmers are gearing up for fall high school and club practice, three swimmers from the South Florida Aquatic Club will compete among the best at this week’s Speedo Junior National Long Course Championships in Irvine, Calif.

It is the second of three meets scheduled for the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine. The five-day meet begins on Monday and ends Friday.

Last week, the ConocoPhillips Long Course National Championships and U.S. National team trials were held. And, on Aug. 18-22 the Pan Pacific Championships will be held.

Florida State-bound Tyler Sell, 18, and Tiffany Oliver, 17, and SOFLO teammate Melissa Cooper, 18, headed for Texas A&M in two weeks, will compete.

Sell, coming off senior nationals, will compete in the 1500-meter freestyle on Monday and will then depart for a well-deserved vacation in New Jersey before heading off to college.

Sell, who swam the 200- and 400-meter freestyles and 200-meter butterfly, scratched from the 1500 last week.

Oliver will compete in the 100-meter freestyle on Tuesday and 50-meter freestyle on Friday.

Cooper, also coming off senior nationals, will swim the 100-meter breaststroke on Thursday and 50-meter freestyle on Friday.

The meet features the best up-and-coming swimmers in the country and showcases the best talent yet-to-be-discovered. It also gives swimmers a chance to see how they measure up against the best in the nation.

Juniors get a chance to see what a “big meet” atmosphere against top level competition is all about. It is the most competitive 18-and-under meet in the nation. For many, it is the last meet of their age group careers before heading off to college.

The meet will serve as a selection meet for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships held later this month in Maui, Hawaii (Aug. 26-30) and the USA Swimming Youth Team. will broadcast the meet on a live webcast that will also include athlete interviews on the deck.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Devanney, Salama Head Masters Nationals Local Swimmers In Puerto Rico On Monday

Devanney, Salama Head Masters Nationals Local Swimmers In Puerto Rico On Monday


August 8, 2010

Even with one national masters meet and handful of local meets under her belt, Evelyn Salama still has a few butterflies.

After training for only two years with masters coach Rose Lockie, the 36-year-old mother of two from Pembroke Pines swam five career-best times in her U.S. Masters National Short Course debut in May at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta.

On Monday, Salama will compete in her second national masters meet in four months.

Salama and several other South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers, a mix of Comets and Coral Springs Swim Club members, will compete in the U.S. Masters Long Course Nationals in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The four-day meet begins Monday with a field of 632 swimmers, ages 18 to 87.

The timed finals event will be held at the Natatorium of San Juan, a world-class facility modeled after the 1996 Olympics Natatorium at Georgia Tech.

Salama and other locals will be in some fast company including Olympians, International Swimming Hall of Fame members, International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame members and U.S. Masters national and world record holders.

Some well-known swimmers in the field include former University of Miami All-American and Olympian Jesse Vassallo of Fort Lauderdale Aquatics, Bumpy Jones, Yoshi Oyakawa, Laura Val, Richard Burns, Jeff Erwin, Jody Smith and Caroline Krattli.

“I am definitely nervous,” Salama said after a warm-up swim on Saturday. “I don’t think I have gotten my feet wet enough at any meet at this point not to be nervous.”

Salama will be joined by Comets Rebecca Clark, 24, Nadine Day, 40, Megan Garland, 24, and Chris Grace, 24. Coral Springs Masters, swimming under Gold Coast (GOLD) are Celia Devanney, 53, and Barbara Protzman, 56. Devanney’s sisters Becky Willman, 58, of Pembroke Pines and Leticia Castro, 50, of Mexico are also competing.

Salama picked up valuable experience at her first nationals. For her second nationals, she was motivated more than ever to put in the training with Lockie.

“I don’t think I could have prepared any better,” said Salama. “Rose has been great with me.”

Salama is entered in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, 50-meter butterfly, 100- and 400-meter freestyles and will swim relays for the first time.

With her kids home from school for the summer, Salama juggled her schedule to get her workouts in.

“I didn’t mind getting up at ungodly hours, I am a mommy,” Salama said. “My husband leaves for work at 7:30 in the morning so any training I had to do I had to get done in the morning. I really want to see how I do in long course.”

Even though Lockie is not with her on this trip, Salama has a support system with her. Her husband, kids, sister and parents decided to make it a family vacation.

“I went to look at the pool and it’s pretty intimidating,” Salama said. “It’s pretty long. I am glad I worked on my turns with Rose. That’s my weakness.

“I love the fact that my family is here with me but it is a little added pressure. I think I am more nervous with them watching. I am glad they wanted to come. I think the fact that the meet was in Puerto Rico had a little something to do with it.”

While the field is smaller than usual, mainly because of the economy and expense, Salama said she “is really excited” to be competing against the best.

“I want to see how I measure up,” Salama said. “I know I have a long ways to go and I have to understand there are some very good people here. I am swimming against Olympians and masters record holders.”

Salama finds comfort in texting Lockie “morning, noon and night.

“I think I am annoying her and jacking her phone bill up at the same time,” Salama said with a laugh. “Every five minutes my husband is asking me who are you texting now? I feel comfortable and better texting her.”

Salama hopes to swim best times, particularly in her breaststroke events which are her strongest.

“I told Rose I would like to finish Top 3 in every event but I know that is going to be a challenge,” Salama said. “I am swimming fit.  I only missed one day of practice the whole summer. I just didn’t want to get here and think I should have done this or I should have done that.

“I was watching the national meet in Irvine and they kept saying how best times are such a big deal. That’s what I want to do.

“Rose has been such a big help. She is teaching me so much and building my confidence. She tells me it’s my lane. That it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the other lanes. Just focus on my lane, my swim and stroke and to remember to do my best and have fun.”

While her family goes sightseeing around town, Salama will rest on Monday before competing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lockie is pleased with Salama’s progress since the Atlanta meet.

“She is still finding her way,” Lockie said. “She is feeling pressure. She has to understand she has so much time to learn and she is still so new to the sport. She is like a kid in so many ways.

“She trained hard for this meet. She got up every morning at 5:30. As long as she has fun doing this, she will be fine. What else matters?

In addition to the four days of competition, there are also socials and salsa dance lessons throughout the week for swimmers and their families.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’S Loai Tashkandi Wins Two Gold Medals, Breaks Two Gulf Records At GCC Championships

SOFLO’S Loai Tashkandi Wins Two Gold Medals, Breaks Two Gulf Records At GCC Championships


August 8, 2010

National record holder Loai Tashkandi is following in the footsteps of swimming great Ahmed Al-Kudmani.

Kudmani retired in November 2007 after bringing home a 50-meter breaststroke silver medal in the 11th Pan-Arab Games. He left a lasting legacy in Saudi Arabia swimming

Kudmani had trained with six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg and Olympic breaststroker Vlad Polyakov for a summer honing his skills at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex. It was Kudmani who suggested that Tashkandi follow suit and train with Lohberg.

The hard work paid off.

Tashkandi, 19, won gold medals in the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle and broke two Gulf records at the 17th GCC Aquatic Championships which are currently being held at the Hamad Aquatic Complex in Kuwait.

It is the most impressive performance by a Saudi Arabian swimmer since Kudmani made a name for himself in the sport.

Tashkandi won the 200 IM in a record 2:08.46. His splits were 27.6 (butterfly), 33.4 (backstroke), 37.5 (breaststroke) and 29.2 (freestyle).

Tashkandi also won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:55.83, another Gulf record. His splits were 26.9, 29.5, 29.8 and 29.4.

“It is an awesome feeling to win,” Tashkandi said. “I am happy that Michael is coaching me.”

Tashkandi’s passion for swimming started at age 6 when his father took him to the local Ali-Ahli Swim Club. The coach was impressed with his work ethic and skills. At 9, Tashkandi started competing with the national team.

Since then Tashkandi has represented his country well in several national and international competitions. During the summer he competed at the Mare Nostrum Tour in Europe with SOFLO.

Tashkandi has looked at Al-Kudmani as “an inspiring role model” and saw how training while studying in the United States benefitted him. Each time Al-Kudmani represented Saudi Arabia in international meets his times improved.

“I am more than honored to represent my country,” Tashkandi said. “The 2012 Olympics are my goal. I look forward to working on this goal during the next two years and hopefully bring honor to my country.”

Another SOFLO swimmer, Zain Qali, 22, of Kuwait, was second in the 50-meter butterfly and third in the 100-meter butterfly.

Sharon Robb can be reached at