Britta Steffen (SG Neukölln Berlin), former world record holder in the 100m freestyle, today made the grade for the Olympic Games in Beijing with a 53.20 European record victory in the event that offers her the best prospect of a medal this summer.
Steffen, who turned in 25.65, raced at German trials in Berlin in the adidas PoweWeb she is wedded too despite the big debate in Germany in which head coach Orjan Madsen said that even if the LZR Racer from Speedo was not really having an effect - and it is - no psychologist was ever likely to be able to persuade swimmers that there was no difference between bodysuits.
The top 10 all-time club are all current racers barring Inge de Bruijn, though Olympic champion Jodie Henry is out through illness and Alice Mills is out through missing qualification:
I feel a weight has been lifted,' said Steffen. 'And I thin that this was the right answer to all the discussion about my withdrawal from the 200m (see paragraph below). I've never experienced such negative press in my own country before. My answer was a European record that proves I'm in good shape. But its still quite a bit further to go to get to the world record of Australian Lisbeth Trickett. I don't see myself as the favourite for Beijing. I know I've still got a lot to do. My focus is to improve those last 10m of the race.'
Following Steffen for a berth in the 4x100m relay in times that suggest that germany has a long way to go to catch up with itself, let alone other nations vying for the medals in China: Petra Dallmann (SV Nikar Heidelberg) 54.90; Daniela Götz (SSG 81 Erlangen) 55.04; Antje Buschschulte (SC Magdeburg) 55.04; Meike Freitag (SG Frankfurt) 55.12; Annika Lurz (SV Würzburg) 55.25; Daniela Samulski (SG Bayer Wup,Uer,Dor) 55.31. Perhaps the girls are on a go-slow because Steffen has declared that she is not interested in racing the 4x200m freestyle in which she was once world record holder along teammates. 'I'm not a machine,' she said, noting her priorities, 50m and 100m freestyle.
The 200m breaststroke went to Sarah Poewe (SG Bayer Wup, Uer, Dor) in 2:25.53, a touch ahead of 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Anne Poleska (SG Krefeld), on 2:25.79. That locked Vipa Bernhardt (SG Frankfurt), on 2:26.87, off the team.
Helge Meeuw (SG Frankfurt), fresh from reclaiming the European 100m backstroke record for himself, clocked 1:57.92 to add the 200m to his Beijing programme, ahead of Felix Wolf (Potsdamer SV), on 1:59.68. Not sure what scope for discretion there is in German selection policy but the 19-year-old Wolf was left crying for his place on the team, just 0.16sec shy of the target time for Beijing.
Meantime, the suit debate rages on. 'The German swim federation has to seriously consider it, otherwise we will sink completely into mediocrity,' said Thomas Rupprath in relation to the DSV's contract with German sportswear firm adidas.
It is the view that Rupprath expressed - one shared by many around the world, that most concerns Madsen as the man in charge of the performance of a team that must wear something other than the adidas suit. The belief, he says, is now 'firmly stuck in their heads - and won't be easy to dislodge ... I don't believe the best psychologists in the world can accomplish that,' said Madsen.
The DSV's contract with adidas is worth 4 million euros and runs until 2009, with an option for the sportswear company to extend two more years. Adidas, with all its resources may wish to make sure before the next window of opportunity in June (when FINA will look again at any applications for new suit approval) that its suit, which carries a spring-loaded sling-type mechanism around hips and waist, also carries some of the properties of the LZR Racer, which are now much better understood by those who need to respond.
Meantime, Steffen's training partner Rafed El-Masri (SG Neukölln Berlin) set a German 50m freestyle record of 22.15 in heats- 0.11sec inside the standard that had been held by Steffen Deibler (TG Biberach). Deibler struck back with a 22.11 record in the final, with El-Masri second on 22.26, inside Beijing target. The Syrian wishes to race in Beijing for Germany, having been born in Clausthal-Zellerfeld. He raced for Syria at Melbourne 2007 and has a passport from each country. The case is in the hands of FINA.
There were no qualifiers in the 200m backstroke, the crown going to Jenny Mensing (SC Wiesbaden 1911) in 2:12.29 ahead of Christin Zenner (VfV Hildesheim) on 2:12.61, and comeback former national team member Cathleen Rund (SC Wiesbaden 1911) on 2:13.34. Same story in the 200m medley for men, all finalists well outside the target, the race going to Markus Deibler (TG Biberach) in 2:02.23, ahead of Dimitri Colupaev (SG EWR Rheinhessen-Mainz) 2:02.81. Hope is in their age: both men were born 1990.