Thompson, Jensen hope to speed up for Athens

Originally Published: July 14, 2004
Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Six world records were set during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, raising already-high expectations of another big American medal haul in Athens.

Four years ago, the U.S. team led all nations with 14 golds and 33 medals overall.

Much of the pressure in Athens will be on Michael Phelps, who said Wednesday he will swim five individual events and up to three relays in his attempt to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in one Olympics.

Phelps gave up his spot in the 200-meter backstroke, putting Bryce Hunt on his first Olympic team. Hunt finished third in the trials behind Aaron Peirsol, who broke his own world record, and Phelps.

"I'm pretty excited," Hunt said. "People were telling me that he might drop out of the 200 backstroke, but I didn't think it was going to happen. I just hope I can bring back a medal."

So does Jenny Thompson, who won the 50 freestyle on the final night of the eight-day trials. She had already qualified in the 100 butterfly.

Thompson, who made her fourth Olympic team at 31, won in 25.02 seconds, while Kara Lynn Joyce finished second (25.11) to earn the second Olympic berth.

Thompson has won 10 medals -- more than any other U.S. woman -- but her eight golds have all been in relays.

Individually, Thompson has been limited to a silver and a bronze, both in the 100 free. She failed to qualify for that event in the trials, the two spots going to Joyce and Natalie Coughlin.

"I feel like I'll be complete whether I win an individual gold medal or not," said Thompson, who is likely to be part of the relay teams again. "I'm just going to try to soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible. The first time I went, it was kind of a whirlwind."

Coughlin, swimming in the 50 after qualifying in two other events, finished sixth at 25.31.

"I'm very happy," she said. "I had three best times in 1½ days and I learned a lot of good things for my 100 free."

Larsen Jensen set an American record in the 1,500 freestyle, becoming the third U.S. man to go under 15 minutes at 14:56.71. He bettered the mark of 14:56.81 that earned Chris Thompson a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics.

The 18-year-old Jensen is a rising star of distance swimming, though he'll have his work cut out for him in Athens. The Australians, led by Hackett, have dominated the mile.

Hackett's world record (14:34.56) is more than 22 seconds faster than Jensen's winning swim in Long Beach.

"It shows how far ahead he is in the sport of distance swimming," Jensen said. "We're behind. The whole world is behind."

Erik Vendt claimed the second spot in the 1,500 at 15:11.96. Chris Thompson got into the final because another swimmer scratched but finished far back in seventh at 15:44.57. He didn't have enough time to prepare after fracturing both elbows during a training mishap in May.

USA Swimming selected the staff that will work with head coaches Eddie Reese (men) and Mark Schubert (woman) in Athens. The assistants include Bob Bowman, Phelps' personal coach, and Teri McKeever, the first woman coach ever picked for the team.

"If you had told me this five years or even three years ago, I wouldn't have believed it," said McKeever, who coaches Coughlin.

The team begins its training camp at Stanford University on Thursday.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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