Sink or Swim
Competition will be fierce when America's best dive into the Olympic trials
Few Olympians will merit their tickets to Sydney more than those who survive the eight-day U.S. swimming trials, which began on Wednesday in Indianapolis. With Olympic medal threats entered in almost every event and only two berths available per event, these trials are more selective than even their track and field cousins. We took out our chlorinated crystal ball to answer several questions about who will sink in Indy and who will swim again in Sydney.
Is Dara Torres going to make a fourth Olympic team after a seven-year layoff?
Bet on it. Torres, a 33-year-old fashion model and Tae Bo infomercial queen, is swimming better than ever. In June she became the oldest swimmer to break a U.S. record, with her 24.73 in the 50-meter freestyle. When Jenny Thompson enthusiastically welcomed Torres back to Stanford last summer to train with and push her, she never dreamed Torres would start smoking her in practice. If—make that when—she makes it to the Games, Torres will become the first American swimmer to compete in four Olympics.
How will 1996 U.S. gold medalists fare?
Thompson is a full second faster than anyone else in the 100 butterfly field. Brooke Bennett, Tom Dolan and Amy Van Dyken also figure to make the team. Bennett should qualify in the 800 free and probably double in the 400 free. Super all-arounder Dolan has to figure out which events to swim but should make the team in the 400 free and 400 individual medley. Van Dyken has changed coaches and undergone two shoulder operations since '96 that have caused her to give up the 100 butterfly, an event she won in Atlanta, but she's a good bet for at least a freestyle relay spot. Gary Hall Jr. and Amanda Beard are iffy. Hall swam a blistering 22.13 in the 50 free at the 1999 summer nationals but is up against diabetes, which was diagnosed in March 1999. Breaststroker Beard, who won three medals in Atlanta at age 14, has replaced her teddy bear with a tongue stud and inconsistent performances.
Are there any likely first-time U.S. Olympians we'll be hearing about in Sydney?
Plenty. Lenny Krayzelburg could win gold in both backstroke events; converted golfer Ed Moses and high school junior Megan Quann are the best of the U.S. breaststrokers; Neil Walker, who missed a spot on the 1996 4 x 100 free relay by .13, is now America's best 50 and 100 freestyler, the U.S.-record holder in the 100 fly and the world's second-ranked 100 backstroker.
Will the team include an African-American for the first time?
Yes, but the question is which one...or ones? Cal sophomore Anthony Ervin set a short-course world record of 21.21 to win the 50 free at the 2000 NCAAs. Bay-watch actor Sabir Muhammad has the American short-course record in the 100 fly, but his best chance to make the team is in the 4 x 100 free. Byron Davis missed a 100 fly berth by .33 in 1996; if he qualifies, he would accompany his wife, Annette, a beach volleyball medal hopeful, to Sydney. Breaststroker Michael Norment has already made history once: In '97 he became the first black swimmer to make a U.S. national team.