Rising star Fong lowers record twice in 200 metres backstroke

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 February, 1998, 12:00am

Alex Fong Lik-sun showed why he is regarded as one of Hong Kong's best swimming prospects with a record-breaking performance in the 200-metre backstroke at the Epson Swimming World Cup yesterday.

The tenacious Form Six student from St Joseph's College ducked inside Mark Kwok Kin-ming's old mark of 2:05.13 in the morning heats with a time of 2:04.85, but he saved his best for later in the day.

Although in the final Fong was unable to break into the top three positions, he was always pushing the leading pack before tying up and finishing fifth with a new record of 2:03.85.

In the space of a day, Fong had shaved nearly four seconds off his previous best in the event. Fong described his performance as 'unbelievable'.

'I really just couldn't believe it . . . it was just unbelievable. Although I always feel confident, I never expected to make such a big improvement - I will never forget this,' said Fong, who will celebrate his 18th birthday next week.

In recent years, US-based Kwok has been Hong Kong's leading swimmer in the medley events, but Fong showed yesterday he was ready to challenge his more experienced rival.

In the 200m medley, Fong improved his personal best to 2:09.66 and, if he continues to bring his times down, he will soon be knocking on the door of Kwok's national record of 2:05.24.

'I still have a long way to go but I'm sure if I train hard I can keep improving,' Fong said.

In the short term, Fong will be focusing on the third leg of the World Cup in Beijing next weekend. But his long-term sights are already clearly focused on December's Asian Games in Thailand.

Individual Hong Kong swimming medals are likely to be thin on the ground in Bangkok, according to Fong, but the Hong Kong youngster said yesterday that the SAR had the potential to challenge in the men's 4 ? 200m freestyle relay.

'Realistically, I don't think we will have much chance of winning individual medals because China, Japan and Korea have very strong swimmers. But I think in the relay we have a good chance to do well,' he added.

Fong's performance was not the only plus point for Hong Kong coach Chan Yiu-hoi yesterday. Youngster Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai also got into the record-breaking groove, lowering her own national mark in the women's 100m backstroke by two tenths of a second.

Tsai, still only 14, finished the women's final in seventh place in 1:03.89, three seconds behind winner Sandra Volker - but nearly four seconds ahead of New Zealand's Monique Mahy, who finished eighth.

'I've taken nearly a second off my best time. I'm very happy because I really want to get into the squad for the Asian Games. . . I want to try and get my times even lower,' a delighted Tsai said afterwards.

Hong Kong coach Chan, who is already planning for the Asian Games, said he was 'very satisfied' with the performance of Hong Kong's swimmers.

'To see national records being broken is always encouraging. I am pleased that we are continuing to get faster,' he said.

Elsewhere yesterday, China's swimmers failed to live up to the pre-meet hype and did not manage any gold medals.

The best performance by a mainland swimmer came from Chen Yan, who took silver behind Sandra Volker in the 100m backstroke.

YESTERDAY'S RESULTS Men's 50 metres freestyle: 1, Alexander Popov (Russia) 22.08 seconds; 2, Lorenzo Vismara (Italy) 22.29; 3, Geoff Huegill (Australia) 22.67.

200 metres freestyle: 1, Jacob Carstensen (Denmark) 1:47.18; 2, Christian Keller (Germany) 1:47.48; 3, William Kirby (Australia) 1:47.69, 4, Alex Fong (Hong Kong) 2:03.85.

800 metres freestyle: 1, Joerg Hoffman (Germany) 7:44.39; 2, Jacob Carstensen (Denmark) 7:59.15; 3, Matt Martin (New Zealand) 8:09.21; 4, Szeto Shui-kei (Hong Kong) 8:49.46.

50 metres backstroke: 1, Tomislav Karlo (Croatia) 25.42; 2, Daniel Carlsson (Sweden) 25.53; 3, Ralf Braun (Germany) 25.63; 7, Billy Kwok (Hong Kong) 27.04.

100 metres breaststroke: 1, Mark Warnecke (Germany) 1:00.65; 2, Alexandre Goukov (Belarus) 1:01.18; 3, Patrik Isaksson (Sweden) 1:01.53, 8, Tam Chi-kin (hong Kong).

100 metres butterfly: 1, Denys Silantiev (Ukraine) 52.37; 2, Geoff Huegill (Australia) 52.53; 3, Daniel Carlsson (Sweden) 53.96, Arthur Li (Hong Kong) 57.44.

200 metres backstroke: 1, Ralf Braun (Germany) 1:57.87; 2, Rogerio Romero (Brazil) 1:59.24; 3, Raymond Hass (Australia) 2:00.19.

200 metres individual medley: 1, Michael Jacobson (Sweden) 2:02.18; 2, Olivier Saminadin (France) 2:04.13; 3, Dean Kent (New Zealand) 2:04.72; 7, Alex Fong (Hong Kong) 2:09.83.

Women's 100 metres freestyle: 1, Sandra Volker (Germany) 55.53; 2, Tomoko Hagiwara (Japan) 56.52; 3, Nian Yun (China) 56.66; 7, Sherry Tsai (Hong Kong) 1:03.89.

400 metres freestyle: 1, Julia Greville (Australia) 4:11.84; 2, Sarah Collings (Britain) 4:13.77; 3, Petra Banovic (Croatia) 4:15.47, 8, Ann Wong (Hong Kong) 4:35.13.

50 metres breaststroke: 1, Syliva Gerasch (Germany) 31.52; 2, Svitlana Bondarenko (Ukraine) 31.57; 3, Mi Tong (China) 32.54, 5, Snowie Pang (Hong Kong) 34.12; 6, Heidi Wong (Hong Kong) 34.23.

50 metres butterfly: 1, Johanna Sjoberg (Sweden) 27.28; 2, Mette Jacobsen (Denmark) 27.31; 3, Chen Yan (China) 27.97.

200 metres butterfly: 1, Mette Jacobsen (Denmark) 2:09.89; 2, Sophia Skou (Denmark) 2:11.46; 3, Katrin Jaeke (Germany) 2:12.74; 8, Mak Wing-yee (Hong Kong) 2:21.78.

100 metres backstroke: 1, Sandra Volker (Germany) 1:00.98; 2, Chen Yan (China) 1:02.15; 3, Lydia Lipscombe (New Zealand) 1:02.37.

200 metres breaststroke: 1, Brigitte Becue (Belarus) 2:28.85; 2, Federica Biscia (Italy) 2:29.40; 3, Karine Bremond (France) 2:30.76; 7, Snowie Pang (Hong Kong) 2:41.18.

100 metres individual medley: 1, Tomoko Hagiwara (Japan) 1:02.75; 2, Nicole Hetzer (Germany) 1:04.41; 3, Anna Robson (New Zealand) 1:04.61; 7, Chan Hiu-yan (Hong Kong) 1:09.00; 8, Ryo Miyauchi (Hong Kong) 1:9.08.

400 metres individual medley: 1, Nicole Hetzer (Germany) 4:42.72; 2, Helen Norfolk (New Zealand) 4:46.92; 3, Laura Porchianello (Italy) 4:50.30; 8, Ayako Nakamura (Hong Kong) 5:11.63.