Four U.S. women advance to semifinals

Updated: August 16, 2004, 12:58 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Michael Phelps, still smarting after America's upset loss to South Africa in the 400 freestyle relay, returned to the pool Monday and qualified fastest for the Olympic 200-meter butterfly.

Phelps' quest to break or tie Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games was dashed with the Americans' bronze medal in the relay Sunday night and his own bronze in the 200 freestyle on Monday.

"It's not disappointing for me,'' he said of the 400 relay loss. "This was a team thing.''

The American women all advanced to evening semifinals.

Dana Vollmer and Lindsay Benko of Los Angeles qualified for the 200 freestyle, while Amanda Beard of Irvine, Calif., and Katie Hoff of Abingdon, Md., advanced in the 200 individual medley.

Phelps came from behind in his 200 fly preliminary heat, winning in 1 minute, 57.36 seconds. He tied Takashi Yamamoto of Japan for first among 16 qualifiers heading into the evening semifinal.

"It was a little hard after last night,'' he said. "It took a lot out of me emotionally, for sure. I wanted a strong one this morning.''

Yamamoto swam next to Phelps, but he wasn't paying attention. "I'm just hoping to qualify for the final,'' he said.

Phelps is the world-record holder in the event. Four years ago, he finished fifth in the 200 fly -- his only event at the Sydney Games.

Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach, advised him to forget about the relay defeat, even though the other Americans were still hashing it over.

"I told him, 'It's over, there's nothing you can do about that, but there's a lot you can do about today,''' Bowman said. "I thought he swam very well.''

Tom Malchow, the defending Olympic champion, was fourth-fastest in 1:57.75 despite swimming with an injured right shoulder. He was nine-hundredths of a second behind Pawel Korzeniowski of Poland, who was third in 1:57.45.

Malchow, of St. Paul, Minn., made his third Olympic team even though he was hurt during last month's U.S. trials. He had two cortisone shots recently to combat swelling and fluid buildup from the torn shoulder tendon.

"It's real different for me here. I'm not the favorite,'' said Malchow, who won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games. "A lot of people say I should have walked away. My shoulder is all banged up, but I'm glad I didn't walk away.''

Phelps had a busy Monday night ahead of him. He swam the much-hyped 200 free final -- a showdown with Australian Ian Thorpe and defending Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband -- followed by the 200 fly semifinal.

Vollmer, a 16-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, had the fastest 200 free preliminary time of 1:59.49 while swimming in the same heat as 2000 silver medalist Martina Moravcova of Slovakia. Benko was eighth-fastest.

"I kept it smooth,'' Vollmer said. "I definitely feel like I can go a lot faster tonight.''

Moravcova barely advanced, claiming the 15th spot among the 16 qualifiers for the evening semifinal.

Vollmer upset Benko at last month's U.S. trials to earn a spot on the Olympic team, so Benko wasn't surprised at the teenager's time.

"Not at all. She's a great swimmer,'' said Benko, who judged her own time as "not bad at all. I'm looking forward to swimming tonight -- and tomorrow.''

Vollmer has a rare condition that could cause her heart to beat rapidly -- then suddenly stop. If that happens, death can occur within minutes.

She had another heart-related ailment that was corrected through minor surgery. But doctors also diagnosed "long Q-T'' -- a hereditary disorder of the heart's electrical rhythm that can occur in otherwise healthy people.

Vollmer's mother brings a defibrillator to all of her daughter's meets, ready to spring into action if the unthinkable happens.

"Normally, I don't get too nervous, but I was pretty nervous,'' the teenager said. "I just told myself to calm down and it would be OK.''

In the 200 individual medley, Kristy Coventry of Zimbabwe led the way in 2:13.33. Defending Olympic champion Yana Klochkova of Ukraine, who won the 400 IM Saturday, was second in 2:13.40.

Hoff, a 15-year-old who vomited after not qualifying in the 400 IM, was third in 2:14.03.

"It's been really difficult trying to bounce back and deal with the disappointment,'' she said. Beard was fourth in 2:14.49.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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