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Americans sinking in Pan Am pool

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Posted: Wednesday August 04, 1999 12:55 PM


WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- Maybe the United States swimming squad at the Pan American Games should be labeled a "B" team, after all.

While the athletes and coaches disdained that tag prior to the competition, the confused Americans are losing at an alarming rate.

With 10 events completed, they have only two gold medals, both by men. The women are winless in five events, all won by Canadians.

Twenty-two events remain, putting the Americans in danger of making their worst showing ever. That was four years ago at Mar del Plata, Argentina, where they lost 10 of 32 races, four by the women and a record six by the men. The most women's losses ever was six in 1971.

Never have the rest of the countries combined to beat the Americans in total golds, men or women. The closest call for the women came in 1955, when they won four golds and the other countries also combined for four. The tightest battle for the men was in 1951, when they edged the opposition 4-3.

Generally, the Americans have dominated in the pool. In 1959 and 1963, the men and women were 8-0 each in golds, The men also went undefeated in 1979, winning all 15 golds, were 15-1 in 1987 and 14-1 in both 1971 and 1975. The women went 13-1 in both 1975 and 1979 and 13-2 in 1967.

Typifying this year's woes was Tuesday's performances by Jarod Schroeder and Sabir Muhammad in the men's 100-meter butterfly. Neither made the final, meaning the U.S. team would not win a medal in an individual event for the first time since 1955 and only the second time ever.

"I was shocked," Muhammad, the American record-holder for 50 and 100 meters in short-course competition, said.

He blamed his unexpected failure on a horrible dive.

"It was the worst dive I've ever had in a swim race," Muhammad said. "I went four meters, straight down. My usual dive is a lot shallower than that."

The disappointed Schroeder's problem also was his start.

"I was slow out of the blocks," he said. "I think I was the last into the water. "I then tried to force the issue, but I wasn't very efficient on my stroke."

The poor showings surprised the team.

"We weren't expecting that," Eric Donnelly, the silver medalist in Tuesday night's 400 individual medley, said. "Everyone was expecting them to be in the top eight and in the medals.

"It was a shock. But I don't think anyone let it get to them."

Donnelly, for one, didn't let it affect his performance. He lowered his career-best by two seconds in winning his preliminary heat, then chopped another two seconds off his time in the final, finishing in 4 minutes 17.86 seconds.

Donnelly was beaten by Canada's Curtis Myden, who was timed in a 1999 world-leading and Pan Ams record 4:15.52.

"I didn't think the race would go that fast," Donnelly said after competing in his first international race. "I thought just under 4:19 would win. After this morning, I wanted to get the record, but he beat me to it.

"I'm not too disappointed."

The Americans' only gold Tuesday night came in the final event, the men's 800 freestyle relay. Adam Messner, Dan Phillips, Devin Howard and Scott Tucker combined to swim 7:22.29.

In the other finals, Canada's Jessica Deglau won the women's 200 freestyle at 2:00.65, only .04 seconds off the Canadian record. Her teammate, Lauren Van Oosten, took the women's 200 breaststroke at 2:30.36. Venezuela's Francisco Sanchez won the men's 100 butterfly in a Games record 53.33.

The Canadians now have six swimming golds, as many as they accumulated at the 1995 games, and a total of 11 medals. The U.S. also has 11 medals, but only two golds.

Wednesday's finals are the women's 400 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 400 freestyle relay, and the men's 100 freestyle and 200 backstroke.

In Wednesday's prelims, all the Americans advanced, with Aaron Peirsol of Irvine, Calif., and Dan Shevcik of Wilton, Conn., posting the two-fastest times in the men's 200 backstroke, and Denali Knapp of Davis, Calif., registering the quickest time in the women's 100 backstroke.

Peirsol won his heat at 2:00.39 and Shevcik was second at 2:01.58. Knapp was timed at 1:02.78 in winning her heat.

Related information
Drug woes hit Pan Am Games
Tuesday Pan Am Roundup
Pan Am Games Day by Day Schedule
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