Hansen suffers first major upset of Olympic trials

Updated: July 6, 2008, 10:41 AM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- Brendan Hansen deserves a gold medal for class. But it's hardly the medal he was looking for Thursday night at the Olympic swimming trials.

[+] EnlargeBrendan Hansen
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillBrendan Hansen looks down at the lane marker as Scott Spann, left, and Eric Shanteau look up at the clock after the 200 breaststroke finals.
The man who has dominated the 200-meter breaststroke in America for four years was stunned in the finals of that event by his own Longhorn Aquatics teammates. Hansen finished a shocking fourth, watching Longhorn greenhorns Scott Spann and Eric Shanteau blow past him in the final 50 meters.

Afterward, Hansen did not hesitate to embrace both Spann to his left and Shanteau to his right, congratulating them. In fact, he initiated it with both.

"I just said, 'You little son of a bitch,' " Hansen said of his postrace discussion with Spann. "It happens, you know?"

It doesn't happen that often -- not in this meet this week. The heavyweights of the sport have been remarkably consistent at holding serve and winning when they were supposed to, including Hansen in the 100 breast Monday night.

But not this time.

"I touched the wall and was really surprised to see that I won," said Spann, who came up agonizingly short of making the U.S. team in the 100 breast. "I'm in shock."

The ripples from this upset will be felt all the way to Japan, where Hansen's red-hot rivalry with world-record holder Kosuke Kitajima just lost some of its luster. Those two will still square off in the 100 in Beijing, but hopes of a repeat of their two showdowns in the 2004 Games are now history.

"I might have been worrying about what I needed to do [to face Kitajima] and not about the guys chasing me," Hansen said. "I train with them every single day. I might have trained them both too well."

Hansen said he "didn't have a very good feeling in warm-up," and it clearly carried over to the race. After setting the pace through the first 100 meters, he was steadily overhauled -- first by Shanteau and then by Spann and Usher.

In the final 15 meters, Hansen had nothing left. His final time of 2:11.37 was nearly three seconds off his personal best. "It is extremely disappointing," Hansen said. "I've got to look at the positives. If I start looking at the negatives it's going to affect my swim [in the 100 in Beijing]." Spann reciprocated Hansen's graciousness when asked about the shocking demise of his teammate in what had been his favorite event. "That's just an off race for him," Spann said. "He's still the best. Brendan's still a 2:08.5 in my book. He's going to take on the world in the 100. "I can't even process that I made the team. This is unbelievable."