Crow in Friday's free routine

Updated: August 26, 2004, 3:03 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Tammy Crow was on her feet, yelling and waving the American flag while her synchronized swimming teammates flipped in the air and spun through the water.

The woman who needed a judge's permission to compete at the Athens Olympics is now in contention for a medal.

Russia, Japan and the United States were 1-2-3 after the Olympic team technical event Thursday night, the same places they finished in the duet competition a day earlier.

Russia was first with 49.667 points and Japan second with 49.167.

The Americans were third with 48.584, giving them a chance for their first team medal since they claimed the first Olympic gold in team competition in 1996.

Crow didn't swim in the technical portion, but she will be flipping in the air as a key part of Friday's free routine.

"She's totally focused on tomorrow," said Erin Dobratz, who will be replaced by Crow. "I think she's going to give the performance of a lifetime to get a medal."

A judge allowed Crow to travel to Athens after she pleaded no contest to two counts of vehicular manslaughter in the 2003 deaths of her boyfriend and a 12-year-old boy. She was sentenced to three months in jail.

Crow lost control of her SUV and slammed into two trees after being at a party in Northern California. Last week, a three-judge panel denied her appeal, and she is set to report to jail in October.

"This has been her dream for so long, especially with all the trouble she went through back home," teammate Anna Kozlova said. "She's such a team leader for us. She's going to do very well. Her mind is on what's going on right now. She's very good at staying in the moment."

Crow later joined the team to pose for pictures on the deck wearing her jacket with "USA" on the back.

"She's got a lot of team spirit," U.S. coach Chris Carver said.

The U.S. team of Alison Bartosik, Dobratz, Rebecca Jasontek, Kozlova, Sara Lowe, Lauren McFall, Stephanie Nesbitt and Kendra Zanotto performed to a marching band medley, featuring pounding drums that conjured up images of a college football halftime show.

"It's a very difficult program. It's the fastest one out there," Carver said. "We took a risk, but we're sitting in third right now. It was worth the risk."

In keeping with their theme, the Americans wore green, black and white sequined suits featuring drums on the front and black musical notes on the back.

"I could see the judges were smiling, so I knew we were doing well. They rarely smile," said Kozlova, who earned bronze in the duet event with her partner Bartosik.

Russia, the defending Olympic champion, has won the last two world championships. The Japanese have finished second to the Russians in every major international meet since 2000. The Americans finished third at last year's world championships.

The Russians received three marks of 10.0 for overall impression, the highest of the competition. Two of their swimmers, Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova, won gold in the duet event Wednesday.

Points for the technical and free routines are added together to decide the medals. All eight teams will swim the free routine Friday night.

Each team's technical routine had to include eight required elements, including the "rocket split, 180-degree spin," in which the swimmers split their legs in the air while spinning underwater.

The Japanese had the most unusual entry, with the first swimmer diving in and the others grabbing the foot of the teammate ahead of them before diving in. Their team includes Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda, who won silver in the duet event.

The sellout crowd chanted "Hel-las! Hel-las!" when the Greek team finished. But fans booed their technical marks, which ranged from 9.2 to 9.4, leaving them in last place.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press