Sun, 19 Jan 2003

Van den Hoogenband wins, Thorpe fifth

Andy Moorhouse, Reuters, Paris

Pieter van den Hoogenband won the 100 metres freestyle gold at the FINA World Cup meeting on Friday with Australian arch-rival Ian Thorpe down in fifth place.

The Dutchman stormed to victory in 47.41 seconds, nearly one second slower than Alexander Popov's long-standing world short course record.

Thorpe, the third-fastest qualifier in the heats, failed to reproduce that earlier form. Jason Lezac of the United States took silver in 47.58 and Argentina's Jose Meolans bronze in 47.65.

Thorpe expects a similar result when he meets van den Hoogenband on Saturday's 50m freestyle and says his primary aim is just to win their battle over 200m.

The pair have not clashed over that distance since Thorpe scooped his third world title in Japan two years ago and the race is the highlight of the meeting.

"I'm not thinking about the time for the 200m I just want the victory ... that's the most important thing this weekend," said Thorpe.

"I'm swimming the sprints here just to develop my speed so I have no great expectations of results."

This is Thorpe's first appearance in Europe since the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester where he scooped six gold medals but earned some comment over a bulky physique.

However, the new year has brought a new attitude along with a new coach, Tracey Menzies replacing Doug Frost to end an 11-year association.

"I'm doing a bit of yoga but I don't do less kilometers than before," said Thorpe. "We've set targets for the season but I'd prefer to keep them to myself and Tracey."

Elsewhere Ukrainian world champion Oleg Lisagor claimed his third World Cup title in the men's 50m breaststroke while China's Xu Yan Wei eased to the women's 200m freestyle in a time of 1:55.94.

Britain's swimmers claimed four golds with Alison Sheppard seeing off the challenge of Swedish world record holder Therese Alshammar to clinch the women's 50m freestyle in a time of 24.23.

James Hickman won the 200m butterfly gold in the same pool where he beat the world record two years ago, while sprint specialist Mark Foster secured the 50m butterfly title.

Fastest qualifier Sarah Price led home a British one-two in the 200m backstroke, edging out promising youngster Stephanie Proud.