Don't let her Mona Lisa smile, sugary voice or tender age fool you. Megan Quann, 16, is a world-class trash talker. Minutes after winning the 100-meter breaststroke at last month's U.S. trials in a time just off her American record of 1:07.12, Quann assessed her chances of dethroning world-record holder (1:06.52) and reigning Olympic champion Penny Heyns of South Africa at the Sydney Games.
"She's going down," said Quann, a high school junior, of her 25-year-old rival. "She's how old, like 26 or 27?" Quann went on to describe the nightly ritual she has performed in her Puyallup, Wash., bedroom since 1996, the same year she watched 14-year-old breast-stroke phenom Amanda Beard earn two silver medals in Atlanta. Quann plays out races in her head before falling asleep, and said she has already seen herself swimming a Heyns-beating 1:05.49 at the Games.
Quann clearly has room to improve. As part of her Sydney-focused training regimen, which includes a self-imposed moratorium on dating until after the Games, she didn't even taper for the trials. Indeed, she swam an unheard-of 20,000 yards the day before going to the meet.
Quann hopes to keep competing for at least two more Games—maybe even until she's as ancient as Heyns. For now, however, the possibility of getting two golds (including one in the 4 x 100 medley relay) before getting her driver's license has her giddy. "I mean, I'm going to the Olympics!" she blurted out in a press conference at the trials. With Quann's tough-girl talk and imperial strut to the starting blocks, it's sometimes easy to forget that she is the youngest female swimmer on the U.S. team.