Germany’s Christoph Burkard has laid down the gauntlet to World champion Mihovil Spanja ahead of next month’s IPC Swimming European Championships in Berlin, Germany by saying he wants the Croatian’s 100m Breaststroke World record.
The two are big rivals going back 12 years and last year saw the latest instalment in their rivalry as they went head-to-head at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
In the 100m Breaststroke SB6, Spanja took gold in a World record time of 1:25.11 while Burkard took bronze just milliseconds behind. In the 400m Freestyle Spanja again took gold with the German having to settle for silver.
Burkard is now keen to set the record straight not just in Berlin next month, but also at the Paralympic Games.
“I hope to win the 100m Breaststroke in World record time, and then go to London next year and swim faster than ever,” said Burkard who beat Spanja to the 400m Freestyle gold medal at Athens 2004 Paralympic Games
Spanja also recognizes the benefit of his rivalry with Burkard.
“This kind of rivalry is good for sport because it gives you more motivation to get better results in races,” said Spanja, who started swimming in the sea from the age of two after contracting Polio which caused muscle wasting in his right leg.
Burkard, who was born with no legs below the knee, will also compete in the 100m and 400m Freestyle events at the IPC Swimming European Championships. His toughest competition in these races may come from Great Britain’s Sam Hynd.
Racing Hynd at the European Championships may bring back bitter memories of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games 400m Freestyle, where Burkard came fourth and Hynd took gold.
“Beijing wasn’t successful for me,” said Burkard. “The only thing I would change in my career is swimming two seconds faster in the Beijing 400m freestyle and making it to third place.”
Burkard is one of around 450 swimmers from 37 countries competing in what will be one of the last major international gathering of swimmers before the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Other top athletes include France’s Paralympic gold medallist David Smetanine and Russia’s S12 powerhouse Oxana Savchenko.