Defending 200-meter champ tweaks stroke

Updated: August 11, 2004, 7:01 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Defending Olympic 200-meter butterfly champion Tom Malchow has been hampered by a right shoulder injury that was diagnosed after last month's U.S. trials.

Malchow didn't feel quite right at meets in May and June, but didn't know he was hurt until after earning a berth on his third Olympic team.

He's had two cortisone shots recently to combat swelling and fluid buildup from the torn shoulder tendon.

"We can't fix the tear. I'm managing the pain pretty well," he said Wednesday. "I've still been training relatively well."

Malchow has had to alter his stroke, using more of a sweeping motion to create momentum in the water.

Initially, doctors thought it was a pulled muscle.

"All summer, he kept saying, 'It hurts, it hurts.' But we thought it would go away," said Jon Urbanchek, who coaches Malchow in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Urbanchek said it was fortunate that doctors didn't discover the serious extent of the injury sooner because Malchow probably would have opted for surgery right away and missed the trials. Instead, he swam through the pain.

He'll have to do it again Monday, when the 200 fly preliminaries and semifinals are held. If he advances, Malchow will swim the final on Tuesday, giving him three races in a 33-hour span.

He won the 200 fly at the Sydney Olympics; Michael Phelps finished fifth in the same race as a 15-year-old. This time, Phelps is the heavy favorite.

Malchow held the world record in the 200 fly until Phelps took it away in 2001.

"Michael is out there in a class by himself," Malchow said. "To say they'll catch him, I don't think so."

Maybe not, but Urbanchek isn't counting out the 27-year-old veteran.

"I expect him to medal," he said.

Malchow won a silver in the 200 fly at the 1996 Games, where at 19 he was the youngest man on the U.S. swim team.

He will have surgery after the Olympics and need a year to regain full motion in his shoulder. But it will no longer affect his swimming -- Malchow plans to retire after the Athens Games.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press