By Gary Lemke
Sydney - American breaststroke brat Megan Quann, who predicted that "Penny Heyns is going down" before the Olympics, was as good as her word in the Sydney International Aquatic Centre today.
In a disappointing race for South Africa, Quann came with a powerful late surge to snatch the gold medal in the women's 100m breastroke final.
Heyns, who led the race until 10m from the finish, had to take third place, and the bronze medal, behind Quann and Australian Leisel Jones.
Quann won in 1:07.05 with Jones recording 1:07.49 and Heyns 1:07.85.
The other South African, Capetownian Sarah Poewe, the fastest qualifier for the final after her semifinal victory on Sunday, trailed in a disappointing fourth in a time of 1:07.85.
Despite her failure to defend her Olympic crown, Heyns gave it everything, leading by three-quarters of a body length at the turn. However, her fast start began to tell on her in the closing stages as Quann and Jones surged past her.
Nevertheless, Heyns's time was nearly a second faster than her semifinal effort.
Poewe, whose name remains a problem for the stadium announcer - the correct pronunciation is "P-e-r-v-e-r" - twice swam lifetime bests on Sunday in going unbeaten, first a 1min 08.06sec, followed by a 1:07.48, a full 1.04sec quicker than her previous personal best.
As the Poewe performance curve jumped skywards, Heyns remained flat-lined, a heat victory of 1:07.85 followed by a swim of 1:08.33.
Heyns is accustomed to reaching the turn first, but last night got there third behind Poewe and Kovacs, though later called it a deliberate tactic.
"I'm struggling with my stroke but not my speed. I have 24 hours to work things out," she said later.
Her younger rival was understandably pumped up afterwards. "Tonight I beat the whole field, if not in the same race, then on the scoreboard. I just have to do it again."
Talking of ice, Terence Parkin had a pack strapped to his left thigh after the heroics of finishing fifth in the men's 400m individual medley final, in 4:16.92 - his second national record of the day, having clocked 4:18.14 in the morning - and good enough to finish fifth.
Still high on an adrenaline rush, he was already plotting putting the cat among the pigeons in his favourite event, the 200m breaststroke, later this week.
In the other final on Sunday night, the men's 100m breaststroke, Brett Petersen finished seventh in 1:01.63, slightly slower than his semi-final time, but he was far from downcast: "We have done very well, our swimming has come a long way in the four years from Atlanta to Sydney."
It was a day of impressive performances by some of South Africa's Olympians. The women's coxless pair of Helen Fleming and Colleen Orsmond, who were 11th at the '96 Atlanta Games, beat world record-holders Australia and world champions Canada in their heat to secure a place in the final this coming Saturday.
Deaf swimmer Terence Parkin Parkin put in a brave performance in the men's 400m individual medley final, finishing fifth after being third three-quarters of the way through.
Triathlete Conrad Stoltz, after completing the first 1.5km swim leg in 44th, took first spot in the 40km cycle before slipping to 20th by the end of the 10km run.