Swimming trials more than Phelps show

Swimming trials more than Phelps show


The U.S. Olympic swimming trials are hardly a one-man show.

Michael Phelps may be getting most of the attention, but let’s hear it for Brendan Hansen, who has two world records in four days.

And Aaron Peirsol, who heads into a backstroke showdown with Phelps looking like the stronger man.

How about Jason Lezak, who knocked off sprint rival Gary Hall Jr. after a pre-race buildup that resembled a heavyweight fight more than a swim in the pool? And don’t forget Dana Kirk, part of the first sister duo to make the American team.

Yep, Phelps will have plenty of help when he gets to Athens.

“I know going to Athens there’s a big bull’s-eye on my chest,” said Hansen, who set a second world record in the 200-meter breaststroke.

Hansen won with a time of 2 minutes, 9.04 seconds, beating the record of 2:09.42 set by Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima at last year’s world championships. On Thursday, Hansen broke Kitajima’s record in the 100 breaststroke.

The 22-year-old native of Havertown, Pa., became the first American since John Hencken in 1974 to hold the world record at both distances.

Phelps had his busiest day yet, swimming four races. He has another four today, when he’ll face his first major challenge in the 200 backstroke with Peirsol.

Peirsol, the world record holder and silver medalist at Sydney, challenged his mark in the semifinals with a time of 1:55.33 — missing by just 0.18 seconds. Phelps, conserving energy, won his heat in 1:57.30, two seconds off his personal best.

“It’s good that I’m two seconds ahead of the field,” Peirsol said. “I will do the best I can to hold (Phelps) off tomorrow. I am not going to hold back.”

The 100 freestyle went to Lezak, who used a great start to silence Hall after plenty of trash talk leading up to their showdown. Hall settled for third, still earning a trip to Athens on the relays and becoming part of the first father-son duo to make three Olympics apiece.

“I just qualified for my third Olympics and I’m really happy,” Hall said. “I’d also like to start campaigning now for team captain.”

Hall leaned over the rope and shook hands with Lezak, who provided backhanded support to Hall in his quest for captain.

“He’s an old guy,” Lezak said. “There is probably a good chance.”

In another testament to family ties, Kirk won the 200 butterfly to join older sister Tara on the U.S. team. They are the sixth set of siblings to make the same team but the first sisters.

Ed Moses, who was America’s dominant breaststroker at the Sydney Games, failed in his bid to return to the Olympics. Bothered by breathing problems, he struggled to a fourth-place showing, more than three seconds behind runner-up Scott Usher.

Then there’s Hansen, the dominant college breaststroker over the last four years and peaking at just the right time. He even surprised his coach by eclipsing Kitajima’s 200 record.

“We figured it would be two or three years down the line before anyone broke it,” said Eddie Reese, the head U.S. men’s coach for Athens. “The only way he could break it was to go out as fast as he went out. The 100 speed gave him the confidence to push his 200 out.”

Hall made his third Olympic team in Long Beach, just as his father did 28 years ago. At those trials, the elder Hall held up his son — not yet 2 years old — in the pool after qualifying for the Montreal Games.

“We made a little piece of history,” Gary Hall Sr. said.

His son couldn’t catch Lezak, who went out strong — under world record pace at the turn — and held on to win in 48.41. Ian Crocker, who holds the world record in the 100 butterfly, earned the second individual spot in 49.06.

Hall touched in 49.16 and won’t get a chance to duplicate his bronze-medal performance from Sydney, though he’ll have a chance to swim the 400 free relay.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2004

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