SWIMNEWS ONLINE: August 1996 Magazine Articles

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It was Jingyi Le, CHN, all the way, with just the narrowest of leads at the half-way point (26.23) over Angel Martino, USA, (26.24). On the second lap, Sandra Volker, GER, moved into second.

Jingyi Le's winning time of 54.50 was an Olympic record. Sandra Volker took the silver with 54.88 and Angel Martino took the bronze with 54.93.

Franziska van Almsick, GER, never got into the race after a very poor start, finishing fifth. She was third in Barcelona.

Amy van Dyken suffered a severe asthma attack after finishing fourth.

For Jingyi Le, the win was "The most important Games of my life. My family and all the people who were supporting me will be happy. It feels very good. I was planning to retire, but China is hosting the 1997 Asian Games and my province of Shanghai has asked me to represent them. So I'll keep swimming."

Her winning time of 54.50 was a new Olympic record.

Olympic record for China's Jinyi Le, winner of the 100 freestyle
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Jingyi Le's coach Zhou Ming explained "Some of the poor performances (two of the fastest seeds in the 400 IM finished 17th and 18th) from the younger swimmers could be attributed to having to get of out bed at 2 a.m. for a false fire alarm-it was the third such false alarm since they've been in the village-and all the swimmers had to go down six flights of stairs and wait outside until allowed to return. This is only the first day and these are young and inexperienced swimmers."

Silver medal winner Sandra Volker, GER, dropped her time to 54.88, a personal best. "It was a dream come true to swim under 55," Volker said. "I was expecting at least a bronze. You just close your eyes and swim as fast as you can."

The oldest American swimmer at these Games, Angel Martino, 29, took the bronze. "I am from Georgia, and I've lived here most of my life in Americus. Of course all my family is here and I know about half of the people in the stands. I was real nervous, but when I walked out on the deck, I just told myself to have fun and enjoy it."

"I thought I was out fast (26.23), but I died at the end." Her time of 54.93 almost matched her personal best of 54.83 from 1992.

"I still have a lot more swims left. It's always a relief to get the first one out of the way. It was exciting to be part of the awards ceremony. It was a great way to start the meet."

In what must be an almost unprecedented act of atonement, Martino gave her medal to Trisha Henry, a friend for the past 10 years. Henry was diagnosed with cancer last February and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Henry was shocked at receiving the medal. "I thought it was one of the nicest things one could do."

The gesture will add a touch of class to Martino's controversial career. In 1988 at the U.S. Trials she broke two American records but tested positive for steroids and received a two-year suspension. She returned in 1990 and won two medals at the 1992 Olympics.

In the prelims, world record holder Jingyi Le, CHN, qualified easily with 54.90, but the top seed Ying Shan, CHN (54.59) missed the final, finishing 9 th with a 56.10.


Fred deBurghgraeve, the world record holder from the heats, didn't need to wear a bathing cap as he shaved his head for the morning swim. He took the early lead, splitting 28.28, just 3/100 ths slower than the morning swim. His winning time of 1:00.65 was just a bit off the record time. Jeremy Linn, USA, narrowed the lead on the second length and finished a close second with 1:00.77, well under the old American record of 1:01.40. Germany's Mark Warnecke took the bronze with 1:01.33.

Fred deBurghgraeve, wins first swimming gold for Belgium
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

"It certainly felt a lot easier this morning, but there was a lot of tension and maybe that tightened me up a little bit," deBurghgraeve said.

"I'm very happy to win the gold medal for me, my family and my country. I did it for all of my friends who have supported me."

"My coach Ronald Gaastra says my technique has changed. I don't know how I looked tonight. People said I was higher in the water. The last 10 metres I wasn't floating."

Silver medal winner Jeremy Linn, USA, had a plan: "First I wanted to make finals. I dropped half a second to reach finals. Tonight I broke the American record and won a silver."

"My race plan was to push it in the last 25 and really go for it at the end. I just came down to the finish and deBurghgraeve had a better finish than I did."

"Being the underdog (everyone expected deBurghgraeve to win) actually helped to motivate me."

"I will finish college now at the University of Tennessee. I have two more years. After I would like to attend culinary college and open my own restaurant."

For Mark Warnecke, the bronze medallist "It was a dream to win an Olympic medal. In 1988 I was 11 th, and only 13 th in 1992. Since 1994 I have worked very hard. I was faster than I thought I could be. I am very satisfied. I will continue to swim. Soon I will graduate from medical school and plan to be a surgeon."

In the prelims Fred deBurghgraeve shattered the existing world and Olympic record in heat six with his 1:00.60 (28.23 split). The old world mark was 1:00.96 by Karoly Guttler, HUN from 1993 and the Olympic record was 1:01.50 by Nelson Diebel, USA, the gold medal winner from Barcelona in 1992.

"I was surprised that I set the world record this morning," DeBurghgraeve said. "After 75 metres I saw I had the lead over the others and needed to concentrate on my stroke. I knew if I won the fastest heat, I would be in the A final. I am glad that I set the record, it proved to myself that I could do it. I can concentrate on the race tonight."

(When he won the gold medal, he became the first swimmer from Belgium to accomplish the feat.) His coach, Ronald Gaastra, lives nearly 100 km from where he trains. Gaastra communicates work-outs by phone and visits deBurghgraeve once a week.

"I always train by myselff. Sometimes it's hard because I am in the water from 5:30 - 7:30 am. Sometimes my father is there. I am the oldest one in my club," deBurghgraeve said.

"My father used to coach me, who was also involved with water polo. We started together and I made rapid progress. I was disappointed in my Barcelona swim in 1992 (he slipped on the block at the start and finished 34th with 1:05.10)."

However that was enough to gain him a measure of financial support from his national Olympic committee, allowing him to quit his factory job and become a full time swimmer. At the 1994 Worlds he finished 3 rd in the 100 breast. In 1995 he was ranked first in the world with his winning time of 1:01.12 from the European Championships last August.

Missing from the finals was Norbert Rozsa, HUN who finished 14 th. He was the winner of the 1994 Worlds and 2 nd at the 1992 Olympics.


Michelle Smith, IRL, was the early leader on fly with over a body length-and-a-half at the 100 in 1:02.21. Krisztina Egerszegi, HUN, moved up on backstroke to even at the 150 and took the lead at 175, with 2:13.18 at the 200. Smith in second and AllisonWagner, USA, moved up on the breaststroke leg. It was now a three way battle with Wagner in the lead. Smith again took the lead in freestyle, with a half-a-body lead at the 350 and moved well ahead on the last 50 to a three body lead. Her winning time was 4:39.18, a first-ever gold for an Irish swimmer. Wagner took the silver in 4:42.03 and Egerszegi the bronze in 4:42.53.

Silver medal swim for Allison Wagner, USA
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Ireland's Michelle Smith on her success: "It's been the culmination of three and a half years of work. I've been building up to this and the first time I could see some results was at the Europeans last year. I did very well this winter when I won the world cup. I was hoping for a medal of any colour."

"I'm actually still a little bit in shock. I was told I was the first Irish woman to win a medal. You can't do much better than that."

"My strategy was to keep a total focus on my first 200 metres because I knew Egerszegi had a very strong backstroke. I knew my fly was going to be faster and that she'd try to pull away on her best leg. I had to keep my concentration and not get upset if she was ahead. My breaststroke is a little better than hers and my freestyle was a lot better. When I was close to her on the breaststroke I knew I had a chance."

"My parents were not athletes but encouraged their children to get involved with sport. I chose to swim and was never pushed by my parents to do anything."

"I've spent very little time in Ireland because I'm training most of the time in Holland. I've only taken a couple of weekends off the past year."

Michelle Smith, on her way to her first gold medal
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

"Everybody who comes to the Olympics trains hard, but I also think that I train smart. My husband's (Erik de Bruin)* background in track and field has been the big difference. We've tried to apply some of the principles of that sport to swimming. I have done a lot more quality work and I've done some weight training. I'm a lot stronger than I was three years ago. I'm also lighter and leaner."

"I think I am not too old (26) to keep improving. "I've got four events to swim over seven days. With the heat and humidity it will be difficult. I will take one race at a time."

Although not entered in the 400 free where she posted the world leading time on July 7 with 4:08.64, apparently the IOC has overruled FINA and will allow her to swim that event.

(* Erik de Bruin is a discus thrower who tested postive in 1993 and is under a four-year suspension by the IAAF.)

In the prelims, a number of top seeds missed qualifying for the finals. The two Chinese Yan Chen, 2nd seed, and Yanyan Wu, 3rd seed, finished 17th and 18th, 10 to 12 seconds behind their times from the Chinese Trials last April.

However Beatrice Coada, ROM, and Lourdes Becerra, ESP, seeded 18th and 19th, improved five seconds each to reach the finals.

Joanne Malar, CAN, seeded 6th, missed the final finishing 9th, even though it was her best ever prelim swim.


Anders Holmertz, SWE had the early lead after one length, touching just ahead at the 100 in 51.97. Danyon Loader, NZL, made his move on the third 50, taking the lead in 1:19.93 at the 150, with Gustavo Borges, BRA, in lane one challenging for the lead. Holmertz was still in the medal hunt until the last 25 when Daniel Kowalski, AUS, moved ahead. Holmertz faded to fifth with 1:48.42.

Loader's winning time of 1:47.63 was his second national record swim for the day. Borges took the silver in 1:48.08 and Daniel Kowalski touched for the bronze in 1:48.25.

After the race Loader said, "I did a personal best in the morning of 1:48.48, so to come back tonight and go under that time again, I'm extremely pleased. I knew the pool from winning here last year at the Pan Pacs."

It was New Zealand's first ever swimming gold. Loader already has a silver in the 200 fly from Barcelona in 1992. "I'd like to say that I am leading the way for New Zealand swimming. Nobody from my country has ever been in this situation before. I am not a leader, but I like to think I am leading the way for other generations to come. All my thanks to my coach Duncan Laing. He is one of the major forces in my life."

"My strategy was simply to swim fast. In 1992 that was the advice I was given. I had no other race strategy. The second 50 was crucial because I had to change from my normal race pattern. I had to try and pick it up in the second 50 and it paid off. You don't know how it is going until it is over. I swam under 1:49 to get into the finals, that just shows the toughness of the competition here."

"I still have the 200 fly and the 400 free. They are different races, different length, different strokes. All I am going to do is try and swim as hard as I can."

"It used to be that a couple of countries dominated the swimming circuit and the Olympic Games. The medals aren't just going to one country. It's refreshing to see other countries winning. The Olympics are open to every country now, which is really good to see."

The shock of the prelims was the elimination of the year's top seed Michael Klim, AUS, from the final, finishing 10 th, as well as Antti Kasvio, FIN, the 1994 World Champion, finishing 14 th.

Top qualifier Anders Holmertz, SWE, finished 2 nd at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

Of note are two 18-year-olds in the final, Pieter vdHoogenband, NED, and Massimiliano Rosolino, ITA, both with personal bests.

MEDAL TOTALS after day 1

Country		Gold	Silver	Bronze	Total

China		1			1
Germany			1	1	2
United States		2	1	3
Belgium		1			1
Ireland		1			1
Hungary				1	1
New Zealand	1			1
Brazil			1		1
Australia			1	1

Total		4	4	4	12

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