SWIMNEWS ONLINE: April 1996 Magazine Articles

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Karin Helmstaedt

The men were taking a beating in the press, and there were still two more nights to go. By the fifth day only five men had made the Olympic team compared to 16 women.

Stephanie Richardson had her hour, or rather her 8 minutes, 46.02 seconds as she stroked her way to victory and a spot on the team in the 800 freestyle. Many were surprised by the speed of Richardson's turnover, and apparently she spent a good deal of the 1995 season trying to lengthen her stroke. It didn't do her any good, and actually injured her shoulder, so she went back to "rev" and it obviously worked. After a difficult start to 1996 because of a lung virus, she managed to come back and make the FINA standard. Cindy Bertelink of Brampton challenged Richardson all the way, finishing second in 8:48.02. Katie Brambley of Victoria was in the race until the halfway mark before falling back to third (8:53.78).

Stephanie Richardson solidified her position with a win in the 800 free. For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

In another refreshing burst of emotion, local spectators went wild when Hugues Legault of SAMAK won the 50 freestyle, earning a conditional spot on the team. A student in mechanical engineering, 22 year-old Legault led after 30 metres and made the COA standard, touching in 23.26. Dean Kondziolka finished a heartbreaking second in 23.36; no doubt the fiasco of the 1992 Trials will haunt him forever. Robert Braknis was third (23.50) while Stephen Clarke gave it a last stab and finished fifth (23.69). Now Legault has the choice of crossing his fingers that no one gets up between now and the cut-off date to bump him off the team by making the faster FINA standard (22.9), or of gettting up himself and trying again (and again?) to make his qualification definite.

1996 will be remembered as Joanne Malar's year; the 20-year-old Kinesiology student continued her gold medal streak in the women's 200 backstroke, getting under the COA standard of 2:16.24. She was challenged at the 100 by Suzanne Weckend of Victoria and Cynthia Graton of Laval, but soon pulled ahead to claim her fourth win and Olympic qualification of the Trials in 2:15.53. Julie Howard was second in 2:16.59, a personal best time, while Amanda Marin of Regina was third in 2:16.73.

Best bet in Atlanta, I.M. specialist Curtis Myden. For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

The evening ended on a high note as Curtis Myden did not let the wave of criticism for the men's team get to him. Having prequalified in the 400 he was able to focus completely on the 200 IM. He came through with a very strong swim and his second qualification for Atlanta, posting a time that places him third in the world so far this year (2:02.32). "I felt pretty good," he said, "but a little heavy at the end. I know there is lots of room for improvement and I can be a lot faster." His teammate Mark Versfeld of Fort McMurray gave him a great race, finishing second in 2:03.84, just over the FINA standard of 2:03.72.

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