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Swim Meet of Champions : Canada’s Davis Leads Parade of Foreigners to the Victory Stand

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

There are a couple of things Victor Davis needs to know about Mission Viejo. First, you don’t try to bargain with the merchants in the local mall. And second, you don’t come to the Speedo Swim Meet of Champions prepared to go fast.

These things just aren’t done. It’s not suburbia chic. But then the Canadian world record-holder never was one to adhere to convention.

Saturday, he went to the mall looking for sunglasses and found a pair he liked.

“They were marked $17,” Davis said. “I told the lady I’d give her $8 and she came back with $10. So I bought them. I felt like I was in Mexico.”

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Sunday night at Mission Viejo’s International Swim Complex, Davis must have thought he was competing in a prestigious international meet. He trimmed more than two and a half seconds off the meet record in the 200-meter breaststroke, the event in which he set a world record during the Olympics.

Davis’ 2:18.43 was more than five seconds slower than his gold medal swim last summer, but it was fast enough to leave the field in his wake. Second-place Mario Fernandez, of Mission Viejo, was more than six seconds back at 2:24.96. Davis’ time was third fastest in the world this year.

“The 200 takes a lot of endurance and since I’m not totally tapered (rested), I’m pretty happy,” Davis said. “I came here with two goals. I wanted to win and I wanted to go reasonably fast, compared to world-class times.”

He certainly accomplished both, also winning the 100-meter breaststroke Friday night in meet-record time.

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For years, foreign swimmers have come to this meet while their American counterparts are in the middle of heavy training and fared reasonably well. But, this time, the best in United States managed to make it to the top of the victory stand just eight times in 28 individual events and two of those U.S. victories were in the non-Olympic 50-meter freestyle events.

The foreign victory parade continued Sunday.

Denmark’s Peter Rohde, who attends Pepperdine, set a meet record in the 100-meter freestyle (51.07) and shattered the Danish national mark in the process. Australia’s Michele Pearson, who won an Olympic bronze in the 200-meter individual medley last summer, won the same event Sunday night in 2:18.84. Canadian Dominique Roussy won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:38.55. And South Africa’s Gary Brinkman won the 1,500-meter freestyle 15:41.45.

Two young ladies--one a veteran and the other an up-and-coming member of swimming’s new wave--continued to help keep America from being shut out this week.

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Jenna Johnson, a 17-year-old from La Habra, appears ready to take over as America’s premier sprint freestyler and butterflier. Despite being unrested, she went 56.79 to win the 100-meter freestyle Sunday night. It was the second-fastest time in the world this year. Only Denmark’s Annamarie Ver Stappen (55.79) has gone faster.

Johnson, who won a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly in the Olympics, also won that event here Saturday.

Kim Brown, a 15-year-old who recently completed her freshman year at Mission Viejo High School, served notice that she plans to compete with Tiffany Cohen for billing as America’s top distance freestyler in the next few years.

Brown, who won the 400-meter freestyle Saturday, came back to bury the field in the 1,500-meter freestyle Sunday. Her 16:32.52 was second-fastest in the world this year and 14.5 seconds faster than second-place Erika Hansen.

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Then there is Jens-Peter Berndt, the defector from East Germany who would love to be representing the United States but is stuck in limbo. A man without a country has trouble finding swim meets he’s eligible to compete in.

Despite a year of turmoil, Berndt showed he was still among the world’s best individual medley swimmers, winning the 200-meter version of the event in 2:05.48, less than a second off Alex Baumann’s meet record.

Baumann traveled from Canada to Mission Viejo, but ended up spending the week in his hotel room with a viral infection.

Berndt, who lost the 400 individual medley to Australia’s Rob Woodhouse Saturday, admitted he was a little depressed after that race.

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“I felt a little bad, yes,” he said. “I’m a big self-critic and I was disappointed. It was just the relation of what I wanted to do and what I did do.”

Berndt avenged the loss and accomplished what he set out to do Sunday, but he is still concerned about his swimming future.

“It’s hard for me not knowing which meets I can compete in,” he said. “It’s a big problem.

“What I really want is to become an American. I know that takes a long time, but I hope to get some help in that.”

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If Berndt gets the needed help before 1988, the sagging U.S. swim program will get a lot of help.

Swimming Notes

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Ban ‘Em Dept.: U.S. Swimming has decided that foreign swimmers will no longer be allowed to compete in a U.S. national meet. The first such meet will be the long-course nationals Aug. 4-9 at Mission Viejo. Mission Viejo Coach Mark Schubert says he is negotiating in an attempt to get Jens-Peter Berndt eligible to compete in the consolation finals during the meet. . . . The unofficial heartbreak award goes to Canada’s Cindy Ounpuu, who was disqualified for a false start in the 100-meter breaststroke Friday night after a qualifying time that was more than a second faster than the field. Sunday night, she was disqualified for an illegal stroke after finishing first in the 200-meter breaststroke. . . . Fifteen-year-old Erika Hansen, of King of Prussia, Pa., has to win the unofficial Ironman Award. Eighteen minutes after completing the 1,500-meter freestyle, she took third in the 200-meter individual medley. . . . Six Danish national records (four by Mission Viejo’s Pernille Nimb) and four South African national marks were established during the meet. . . . Gary Brinkman, who set two South African records, and second-place Dan Jorgensen, of Mission Viejo, have the two fastest times in the world this year in the 800-meter freestyle.


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