Hoff makes move, goes with Phelps' coach after failing to win gold in Beijing

Updated: November 16, 2008, 8:32 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Swimmer Katie Hoff has changed coaches after a disappointing Olympics in which the six-time world champion failed to win a gold medal in a half dozen events.

Hoff is working with Michael Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, who has returned to her North Baltimore Aquatic Club after four years at the University of Michigan. Hoff trained with Paul Yetter since before she qualified for the 2004 Olympics as a 15-year-old.

"It's just the way things have transformed, and Bob's back, and it's just time for a change for, I think, both of us," Hoff told The Associated Press on Sunday, a day before USA Swimming's annual Golden Goggle Awards banquet.

The 19-year-old Hoff made the Beijing Olympics in five individual events, the same number as Phelps. She won a silver medal and two bronzes and took fourth in two other races.

In her last event, the 800-meter freestyle, she didn't even reach the final, finishing 8.08 seconds off her personal best in the preliminaries.

Hoff said she can't regret the decision to swim so many races because it's the only way she could have learned she couldn't handle such an intense workload.

"Trials and Olympics are a whole different thing," Hoff said. "But I handled it well at trials. I had no experience any other way. For me, I was the person to do it. I made it and I wanted to be there for my team and compete for my team.

"Yeah, I was definitely in a little over my head, just as far as the stress emotionally and physically. By the time I hit the 800 free, I was fried. I think the goal for the next four years is to go to a high-level meet, have fun and not just feel stressed the entire time."

Hoff was .07 seconds from gold in the 400 free, when Rebecca Adlington of Britain overtook her in the final meters. She came in with the world record in the 400 individual medley but settled for bronze.

Hoff took off six weeks after the Olympics, the longest break she's ever had. She called the time away "amazing," and said it helped her gain some perspective.

"The 400 free still kind of gets me sometimes," she said. "It's just going to drive me for four years. When I look back, I realize I am only 19. I have hopefully a couple more Olympics in me.

"So getting the experience of racing in a final for a gold medal and having my medals is cool. It definitely took me a while to adjust my frame of mind to what is up to my standards. But at this point I'm ready to move forward and work my butt off for the next few years."

Hoff doesn't plan to swim the 400 IM this year, even though she is a two-time world champion and former world record holder. She recalled a conversation in Beijing with fellow American Natalie Coughlin, who has limited her events at the Olympics despite being capable of qualifying for more.

Coughlin was talking about her "hatred" of the 200 backstroke, in which she's a former American record holder; Hoff feels the same way about the 400 IM.

"She was like, 'You want to enjoy what you're doing. There shouldn't be this dread that you feel,'" Hoff said.

It already feels as though "a weight has been lifted."

"You're in this sport so long, why swim something that you hate when you have other options?" Hoff said. "I'm lucky enough to have other options."

Maybe someday she'll pick up the 400 IM again. And she's glad she swam it in Beijing, because she "got rid of the evil spirits in that race."

In 2004, as the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic delegation, Hoff was so unnerved that she vomited on the pool deck after finishing 17th in the 400 IM. She later made the 200 IM final and came in seventh.

Hoff has also started anew in her life outside swimming, beginning to take classes at Loyola College.

"It drove me crazy not doing anything the year before," she said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press