SWIMNEWS ONLINE: August 1996 Magazine Articles

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Susan O'Neill, AUS, and Petria Thomas, AUS, took the early lead. At the 50 they turned first. Michelle Smith, IRL, was third.

O'Neill turned first at the 100, with Smith half a body length behind.

Smith was unable to close the gap on the third length.

O'Neill increased her lead to a full body length with 25 m to go. Smith faltered at the finish and Thomas moved into second, with Smith in third.

Australian sweep in 200 butterfly with Susie O'Neill chasing the gold
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

This is the first Australian gold of these Olympics, and sweeping the top two spots made it even better.

How the race was split: 
O'Neill 28.54 1:00.66 1:33.76 2:07.76
Thomas 29.05 1:01.79 1:35.45 2:09.82
Smith 29.16 1:01.38 1:34.45 2:09.91
Qu 29.32 1:02.56 1:36.33 2:10.26

"This was my main event," O'Neill said. "All my other races were just to keep my mind off this one and give me some racing practice."

"I expected to win. When Michelle Smith showed up late, I thought she wasn't going to turn up. The way she swam all week I knew she'd be a threat."

"I've been aiming at winning this gold all my life. I tried to imagine what it would be like, what I would do if I won. I promised myself that if I did win I'd show some excitement and throw my arms in the air."

In Barcelona, O'Neill came third. "The last 20 metres didn't hurt as much compared to coming third. I was happy with my bronze medal then. I wouldn't have been very happy with that today."

"I've trained really hard the last four years and I've got to say a big thank you to my coach Scott Volkers. He really turned around my career after the World Championships and made me believe that I could win an Olympic gold medal. I thought I'd reached a plateau and he showed me that I could do it and he improved my training."

"It has been a very up and down year but Scott always made sure that when it came to workouts everything was focused on training. There was a lot of things going on but he kept it as normal as possible."

"I will definitely continue until the World Championships in Perth. I think I might be too old for Sydney, I don't know, maybe I can go on."

Silver medallist Petria Thomas had doubts. "Actually I have not stayed focused. All the people around me have kept in focus. Even though I did all this training and I was doing alright, I was still doubting myself. I didn't think I could win a silver. Like any young swimmer the main thing was being here and I fulfilled my wildest dream to win a medal."

Bronze medal winner Michelle Smith said. "My time would have been faster if I had swum it at the beginning of the meet, but I had to make choices at the end of the week. I had to choose whether I would swim the 200 IM. If I did not swim, my fly would have been faster. But I wouldn't have won another gold medal. I'm going home with three golds and a bronze and I'm really happy about that. I cried after this medal, out of sheer happiness because this has been the best week of my life."

"Older women should stay in the sport. I proved that you're not over the hill at 26. If younger girls can get through the difficulties of being 16 to 18 or whatever it is they feel they are missing out on while training, my example should encourage them to keep going because there is a lot more years left in swimming."


Hajime Itoi, JPN, was first at the 50, with Brad Bridgewater, USA, in second.

At the 100, Bridgewater and Tripp Schwenk, USA, moved into the lead. They held on throughout the third 50. Itoi and Emanuele Merisi, ITA, were now fighting for third spot.

The Americans were strongly pressed on the last length by Merisi who gained with every stroke but only finished third.

The first three were under two minutes.

Tripp Schwenk and Brad Bridgewater with Emanuele Merisi
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

It's the first medal for Italy, the 19 th country to have one in the competition.

How the race was split: 
Bridgewater 28.06 57.72 1:27.92 1:58.54
Schwenk 28.13 57.90 1:28.56 1:58.99
Merisi 28.53 58.89 1:29.16 1:59.18
Sikora 28.39 59.00 1:29.85 2:00.05

Winner Brad Bridgewater thinks strange things happen in this event. "For some reason the 200 back at the Olympics has not been a really fast event. The fastest times are not done here. Almost everyone has gone faster this year. I'm not sure why that is. I think any one of five or six of the finalists could have won. I don't think I was taking anyone for granted."

"After the 1994 World Championships, I moved to swim with Mark Schubert at the University of Southern California. Now I have no doubts about having done all the work I could possibly have done. I'm a lot less apprehensive about competing and a lot more confident in what I could do." Struggling with his weight, silver medal winner Tripp Schwenk said. "I think this makes up for my experience in 1992 (5 th). After that I put on a lot of weight. I'm extremely happy for myself and Brad, this may be the end of it for me. I couldn't have ended it on a better note."

"I've had to give up most of my favourite foods to control my weight. Both Brad and I have a little bit of a weight problem. Between the two of us, we had about 400 pounds in the pool. I cut out all fast food and fatty things. It's a bad habit, but I just love to eat. It's been a lifestyle change for me. If I don't continue to swim I'll be 290 pounds in about two weeks. My metabolism has changed since high school. I don't have 4% body fat anymore and if I'm not careful it will be 40%."

World leader Emanuele Merisi, ITA, whose time of 1:57.70 from last March is the fastest in 1996, expected to be faster. "I thought that I would swim my very best here. After this morning's heats I thought I would win. An Olympic bronze medal is always special and I'll always have that."


Jingyi Le, CHN, took the lead after the start and held on for about 40 m. Amy van Dyken, USA, started moving up on her and with each stroke narrowed her lead, until with 5 m to go she was ahead, touching for the gold.

Sandra Volker, GER, got the bronze.

There were national records for the USA, Germany, Barbados and Sweden.

Winning her second individual gold, Amy Van Dyken ended the competition with four golds (two from relays, and the 100 fly). "I think I've reached the pinnacle of my career and everything else is icing on the cake. I am going to take a long break."

Fourth gold for Amy van Dyken winning the 50 freestyle
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

On some of the race strategies she said, "My start is the weakest part of my race. I hoped to be close to Jingyi Le. In the ready room I stare down every competitor I know is a threat. I've stared down Jingyi Le before the race. If it would have been someone from Sweden, I would have done the same thing. That's my thing, I'm mean and I'm sorry."

Her four golds at one Olympics is a historic feat for an American swimmer. "It's really special to be considered in the category of all the athletes that came before me. I'm not comparable to Janet Evans, that's comparing apples and oranges. I have two relay golds, she has four individual golds." She even received a telegram from her dog. "It said, Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! One for each gold medal. Then it said 'Love, Button.' I was really happy to know that my dog loves me."

"I actually quit for the summer of 1993. I wasn't going to go back and I was adamant about it. I had mono, disappointement at the NCAAs. After I took the summer off I realized how much I love the sport."

This was a rare loss for world record holder Jingyi Le. "I was ready for the gold, but I just had bad luck. I think van Dyken is really good. There are only three swimmers under 25 seconds and she is one of them."

"I'm satisfied with my results, but my other team members have not done very well."


Kieren Perkins, AUS, took the lead right from the start.

At the 400 he had a two body length lead on Daniel Kowalski, AUS. Jorg Hoffman, GER, and Graeme Smith, GBR, battled for third.

At the 600 Perkins was well in front, with Kowalski second.

At the 800 Perkins turned in 7:53.38 about seven seconds behind his world record pace. The rest of the field was too far back now to catch him.

For someone lucky to make the final the day before, this transformation a day later was nothing short of amazing.

Smith now challenged Kowalski for second at the 1000 m.

With 100 m to go the battle for second was between Smith and Kowalski

Perkins touched first in 14:56.40, and Kowalski out-sprints Smith to that wall to give Australia its second sweep of the evening.

Triumph by willpower for Kieren Perkins
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

"Words can't describe the feelings," Perkins said. "It was difficult winning the gold the first time in 1992, but winning again was a thousand times harder. It's a great feeling that I did it. I went over it a thousand times in my head. I convinced myself I was going to get up and win it."

"I kept imagining myself touching the wall first. I visualized exactly what would happen tonight. Sitting behind the starting blocks I was 100% focused. I knew exactly what was required from me and what I had to do. It was just a matter of letting my instinct take over."

"I've done a lot of soul-searching about my troubles this spring. I wavered a little bit in my focus and my belief in myself. But when it came down to it, I knew I could get in there and do it."

How the race was split: 
Perkins Kowalski Smith Brembilla
100 55.30 55.73 57.23 59.54
200 1:53.92 1:55.14 1:57.38 2:00.09
300 2:53.41 2:55.34 2:57.75 3:00.66
400 3:53.28 3:55.76 3:58.34 4:01.47
500 4:53.45 4:56.34 4:58.85 5:02.54
600 5:53.47 5:57.04 5:59.43 6:03.44
700 6:53.62 6:57.62 7:00.04 7:04.38
800 7:53.85 7:58.31 8:00.82 8:05.43
900 8:53.82 8:59.96 9:01.46 9:05.95
1000 9:54.44 10:01.93 10:02.24 10:06.57
1100 10:54.86 11:03.43 11:03.00 11:07.23
1200 11:55.51 12:04.22 12:03.69 12:07.71
1300 12:56.40 13:05.24 13:04.71 13:08.40
1400 13:57.52 14:06.00 14:05.48 14:08.83
1500 14:56.40 15:02.43 15:02.48 15:08.58

"This is the Olympic Games. It's never easy for anybody and it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done previously. It's the hardest meet in the world-the Olympics have no respect for reputation."

"I was 19 in Barcelona, I just got in there and did it. Tonight I knew what could go wrong and what could go right. The preparation was tougher."


Jeff Rouse, USA, was in first after the backstroke leg with a 53.95. Vladimir Selkov, RUS was in second about a body length behind.

Jeremy Linn, USA, well in front on the breaststroke leg, extended the lead to two body lengths splitting 1:00.32 for the breaststroke leg.

Pankratov narrowed the lead to about a body length and a half after his 51.55 split, but it was impossible for Popov to overcome such a lead.

The United States bettered the world record, which they held from 1988 and tied in 1992.

Behind the Russians, Australia picked up the bronze.

National records were set by the USA, Australia, Germany, and Japan.

Jeff Rouse who lead off the winning relay for the Americans said, "A lot of people swim faster on a relay. I swim faster because I know that I have three other guys behind me."

"We didn't feel any pressure for being favourites. It was a challenge, but we feel a lot more confidence now."

Breaststroker Jeremy Linn split the fastest leg ever with a 1:00.32. "I think the crowd brought me into the wall all by themselves. I was thinking, "Break a minute'. Obviously this is the greatest relay that ever was. You couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys."

Anchor leg Gary Hall said, "This is a perfect example of a team that's pulled together and really took charge. Just being on a team that's had the success we've had has just been more and more motivating and the ball kept rolling. The Russians are always there, they're tough competitors, we didn't know what to expect."

Sprinter Alexander Popov knew that they would be swimming for the silver. "I was expecting to come in second. I'm proud of the Americans for setting the record. They set a new target for us. One day we'll give them a race."

1) 3:34.84 United States,USA 	     Split 	   Total 
Jeff Rouse 				53.95 		53.95 
Jeremy Linn 				1:00.32 	1:54.27 
Mark Henderson 				52.39 		2:46.66 
Gary Hall 				48.18 		3:34.84 
2) 3:37.5 Russia,RUS Vladimir Selkov 55.53 55.53 Stanislav Lopukhov 1:01.66 1:57.19 Denis Pankratov 51.55 2:48.74 Alexander Popov 48.81 3:37.55
3) 3:39.56 Australia,AUS Steven Dewick 56.65 56.65 Philip Rogers 1:01.71 1:58.36 Scott Miller 52.04 2:50.40 Michael Klim 49.16 3:39.56
4) 3:39.64 Germany,GER Ralf Braun 55.76 55.76 Mark Warnecke 1:01.40 1:57.16 Christian Keller 53.15 2:50.31 Bjorn Zikarsky 49.33 3:39.64

MEDAL TOTALS after day 7

Country		Gold	Silver	Bronze	Total

United States	13	12	2	26
Russia		4	2	2	8
Hungary		3	1	2	6
Ireland		3		1	4
Australia	2	4	6	12
South Africa	2		1	3
New Zealand	2			2
China		1	3	2	6
Belgium		1			1
Costa Rica	1			1

Germany			5	7	12
Brazil			1	2	3
Canada			1	2	3
Cuba			1	1	2
Great Britain		1	1	2
Finland			1		1
Sweden			1		1
Netherlands			2	2
Italy				1	1

Total		32	32	32	96

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