Thompson, Torres earn trips to Sydney

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Dolan wants another gold medal. Jenny Thompson wants one of her own. Dara Torres? She'll gladly settle for an improbable trip to Sydney.

Thompson defeated Torres in a stirring 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. Olympic trials Thursday night, the two giants of American swimming flapping toward the finish in almost perfect sync before Thompson touched first by a split-second.

They both earned spots on the Olympic team, which will make 33-year-old Torres the first American to swim in four Games.

''When I got out of the pool, I pinched myself to make sure it wasn't a dream,'' said Torres, who returned to the sport in July 1999 after a seven-year retirement. ''It's a pretty awesome feeling.''

Dolan, meanwhile, blew away the latest challenger to his supremacy in the 400 individual medley and gets a chance to defend his gold medal from the Atlanta Games.

Thompson has won five golds during her brilliant career, but all have come in relays. Four years ago, she stunningly failed to qualify at the trials for any of the individual Olympic events.

Thompson earned her third trip to the Olympics in 57.78 seconds. Torres, swimming in the next lane, was virtually stroke-for-stroke over the final 25 meters, falling just short in 57.86. No one else was within a second.

''That's what I missed out on in '96 -- the opportunity,'' said Thompson, whose only individual medal is a silver in 1992. ''Now, I have it.''

Speaking of giants, Dolan showed he was fully recovered from knee surgery by beating rival Tom Wilkens.

Watching himself on the video board, Dolan splashed the water defiantly, having turned away another challenge to the dominance he has held in this event since setting the world record of 4:12.30 in 1994.

''I always do it the hard way,'' said Dolan, who made a run at the record with a time of 4:13.72. ''It's been a long time coming. That's the most emotion I've had in swimming in a long time.''

Wilkens had a half-second lead at the 300-meter mark after his specialty, the breaststroke. But Dolan made up the distance over the final 100 with his best stroke, the freestyle.

Wilkens faded badly and didn't even get a spot on the Olympic team. Distance specialist Erik Vendt of North Easton, Mass., came on for second in 4:13.89, while Wilkens was another two seconds back at 4:15.89.

Ed Moses, who gave up swimming for six years after burning out at age 10, showed why he's one of the favorites for gold in the men's 100 breaststroke. Now 20, he set an American record of 1:00.44 -- just 0.08 seconds off the world mark held by Russia's Roman Sloudnov.

Pat Calhoun of Auburn, Ala., claimed the other Olympic berth at 1:01.09.

''First things first -- I just wanted to make the team,'' Moses said. ''My work is not done yet. I have four weeks to prepare for the Games. This is just a step ahead. Hopefully, I'll bring home the gold.''

His family held up signs saying ''11th Commandment, Moses Shall Go Fast'' and ''12th Commandment, Moses Shall Go For The Gold.''

Diana Munz, 18, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, made her first Olympic team by winning the 400 freestyle, edging out top qualifier Brooke Bennett. Munz finished in 4:08.71, while Bennett also heads to Sydney after going 4:08.76.

Bennett won Olympic gold in the 800 free at the Atlanta Games.

Torres, who returned to swimming last year after seven years spent dabbling in modeling and infomercial work, held a slight lead at the turn in the 100 butterfly. Thompson caught up on the return trip and touched first.


Both swimmers came up short of Torres' American record of 57.58, set a day earlier in the preliminaries. And both have a lot of work to do before Sydney, where Dutch sensation Inge de Bruijn has set a very high bar to catch with a world record of 56.64.

Still, it was a remarkable accomplishment by Torres, who swam in the Los Angeles Games 16 years ago and also competed at Seoul and Barcelona before leaving the sport with two gold medals, a silver and bronze -- all in relays.

When Torres decided to begin competing again, she called Thompson her inspiration. They worked out together until the practice pool began to resemble a mini-Olympics, forcing coach Richard Quick to split them up.

Showing there's no hard feelings, they hugged and clasped hands after their thrilling race.

''The rivalry has definitely pushed me to be better,'' Thompson, 27, said. ''It's put me out of my comfort zone and made me have to step it up.''

Lenny Krayzelburg, world record-holder in the men's 100 backstroke, used the preliminaries and semifinals to show off the form that's expected to bring gold in Sydney.

The 24-year-old native of the Ukraine cruised through the prelims at 54.33, fastest in the world this year. Until the evening session, that is, when blew away the field in 53.67 -- a mere off 0.07 off his record.

And he didn't even seem to be pushing himself hard. Just wait until the Friday final.

''I can come in and work on some things and build my race,'' Krayzelburg said. ''I'm saving it for tomorrow night.''


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