Wielgus's assessment is harsh on U.S. women. Janet Evans's 800 world mark of 8:16.22, set in 1989, still stands, and Brooke Bennett has won the event at the last two Olympics. Still, having to swim in heats or multiple events at the Games is an impediment to setting distance records. No U.S. distance swimmer since Brian Goodell in 76 has won an Olympic gold in world-record time.
"I was thinking I might let the 800 drift away when I got to college," says Kaitlin Sandeno, who at 17 got a bronze at that distance in Sydney. "Not anymore. A million dollars is out there."
Austrian Cable Car Disaster
Near Miss for a Maier Brother
Hermann Maier's Austrian teammates knew something was wrong on Nov. 11 when they saw the World Cup all-around champ rush for a telephone with the sort of abandon he usually reserves for the slopes. The call from Beaver Creek, Colo., where Maier was training, to Austria brought Maier both sorrow and relief. A cable car on its 9 a.m. run through a tunnel in the Alpine village of Kitzsteinhorn had exploded in flames, killing 155 people. It was a ride Hermann, 28, had taken many times in his three-month stint there as a ski instructor in 1995. Fortunately, on this morning—just by chance—it was a ride that Alex, the Herminator's 26-year-old brother, hadn't taken.
Alex, a snowboarder who was in Kitzsteinhorn training for a World Cup race and who had taken the cable car several times in previous days, changed plans at the last moment and chose to train at the bottom of the hill that day. "Racers talk about one or two seconds all the time," Hermann told reporters. "That seems so important until something like this happens." Alex, who works summers at the Hermann Maier ski shop in the Maiers' hometown of Flachau, took second in the snowboard Super G at the 2000 Goodwill Games. Hermann won down-hill and giant slalom races in Val d'Isere, France, last weekend and leads the overall World Cup standings by a commanding 207 points. a