Work in Sports
American Krayzelburg wins 200-meter backstrokeLatest: Wednesday October 11, 2000 12:12 PM
SYDNEY, Australia (CNNSI.com) - Every American who swam in a final went home with a medal Thursday night, collecting a total of eight medals.
American Lenny Krayzelburg's gold in the 200 backstroke highlighted the evening's races.
Krayzelburg, who emigrated from Ukraine 11 years ago, won his second Olympic gold, taking the 200 backstroke in an Olympic record 1 minute, 56.76 seconds -- slightly less than a second off his world record. He also broke the Olympic mark in the preliminaries and semifinals.
Aaron Peirsol, a 17-year-old from Irvine, Calif., won silver in 1:57.35. Matthew Welsh of Australia was third in 1:57.59.
Tom Dolan of Arlington, Va., earned silver and Tom Wilkens of Middletown, N.J., won bronze in the 200 individual medley. Dolan finished in 1:59.77 -- the first American to ever go under 2 minutes -- and Wilkens in 2:00.87.
"I gave it all I had. I was hurting coming home," said Dolan, who won the 400 individual medley Sunday. "I didn't have speed or strength to go that fast."
Massimiliano Rosolino of Italy won the gold in an Olympic record of 1:58.98 to go with his silver in the 400 freestyle and his bronze in the 200 free.
Krayzelburg, of Studio City, Calif., joined Americans Rick Carey (1984) and John Naber (1976) and German Roland Matthes (1968, 1972) as the only men to sweep the Olympic backstrokes.
Krayzelburg won the 100 backstroke Monday. Welsh finished second in that race.
Krayzelburg, who turns 25 next week, came to the United States in 1989. He spoke little English, but already had honed his swimming skills in Odessa, Ukraine. He became a U.S. citizen in 1995.
He raised his arms in triumph, congratulated Welsh in the next lane, then embraced Peirsol, his teen-age heir apparent. He whispered a message in Peirsol's ear: "Keep it up."
Peirsol is the only man with a victory over Krayzelburg in the 200 back in the last two years. He upset his fellow Californian at a meet in Los Angeles in July.
"I think I'm getting to the point where, over time, I can be more of a threat to him," Peirsol said. "Just over the past two weeks, I've learned a lot."
Krayzelburg pressed his lips to the back of his gold on the medals podium. On the way to pose for photographers, he broke away and hopped through the cameras to kiss and hug his father and mother, who clutched a U.S. flag.
Krayzelburg and Peirsol, the friendliest of rivals, traded medals, with the winner biting into Peirsol's silver and the teen-ager biting the gold.
Before Krayzelburg became the first American to claim two individual swimming golds in Sydney, Kristy Kowal and Amanda Beard medaled in the 200 breaststroke.
Kowal of Reading, Pa., was second in 2:24.56. Beard, who won silver in Atlanta as a fearless 15-year-old, was third in 2:25.35.
Beard squeaked into the final, grabbing the last spot in Lane 8 -- rough water to tread on the way to the medal stand.
"My coach told me, `You're in eighth. All you can do is move up,'" Beard said. "I decided to go out there and give it a shot. I went all out and told myself I've got to do it."
Agnes Kovacs of Hungary won the gold in 2:24.35. Kovacs, who finished third in the Atlanta Olympics, swam a personal best after setting the Olympic record in the semifinals.
Kowal's jaw dropped in shock upon seeing her time on the scoreboard. A huge grin spread across her face as Beard made her way to her teammate to share a jubilant hug.
"I just wanted to come here and get a medal," said Kowal, unable to stop crying. "I did that. I'm so happy. This makes up for all the disappointments there have been in my career."
Gary Hall Jr. of Phoenix put himself at center stage for swimming's glamour event by qualifying fastest in the 50 freestyle semifinal.
Hall swam 22.07 seconds, ahead of Pieter van den Hoogenband, the Dutch star who's already won two golds in Sydney. Van den Hoogenband was second in 22.11.
"It's a good position to be in going to the finals," said Hall, the silver medalist in Atlanta. "I'm right in the middle of the pool and I'll have a good view of all the competitors - not that I'll be looking."
Anthony Ervin of Valencia, Calif., was third in 22.13.
"It's going to be a battle," said Ervin, the first person of black heritage to make a U.S. Olympic swim team. "There's more fast stuff to be seen. My goal is to win, but I'll take a medal."
Russian Alexander Popov was fourth in 22.17. He'll attempt an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic 50 freestyle title in Friday's final.
Diana Mocanu of Romania moved into position to sweep the women's backstroke events as the fastest qualifier in the 200 semifinals with a time of 2:09.64. Mocanu was the 100 backstroke winner Monday.
Amanda Adkins of Ghanna, Ohio, also advanced to Friday's final in seventh at 2:12.97. Lindsay Benko of Elkhart, Ind., didn't make the top eight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.