Kristine Quance was so depressed last year she considered quitting swimming with one year of eligibility left at the University of Southern California. Once, after doing 500 metres during a workout, she couldn't go anymore. She was sick of swimming and got out of the pool.
Quance felt disappointed and embarrassed with her performances a month earlier at the Olympics. She didn't make the finals in either the 100 breaststroke or 200 individual medley. A gold medal for the 400 medley relay didn't change her mood because she swam only in the prelims and didn't get to participate in the awards ceremony. Earlier in the year at the U.S. Trials, she had been disqualified in the prelims of her best event, the 400 IM - where she thought she had a chance to win a gold medal - when a judge ruled her shoulders were not at or past vertical as she turned from backstroke to breaststroke. She also missed an Olympic berth in the second-best event, the 200 breast, by 12/100s of a second.
What made the 1996 setback more catastrophic was that four years earlier Quance had also suffered severe disappointment. A leading contender in the 400 IM and 200 breast then, she discovered a week prior to the trials she had mononucleosis. She attempted to compete anyway, although her coach at the time, Bud McAllister, didn't think she'd make finals because she'd been working out so poorly the past month due to the illness. Quance passed up the 400 IM to save her energy for the 200 breast where she managed to stand second through 150 metres but couldn't hold on and wound up third in 2:29.89.
In between the Olympic years, Quance battled a nagging tendinitis problem in her left shoulder that accounted for subpar seasons in 1994 and 1995. She felt good for the 1996 trials after taking six weeks off in the spring of 1995 to rest her shoulder. But then the crushing disqualification in the 400 IM and subsequent poor performances in Atlanta spoiled her dream and tested her commitment to the sport.
"I started thinking about things too much because I didn't meet my expectations," she recalls. "I really had down periods. I didn't want to do anything. It took awhile to get my head on straight."
Quance, a Mormon, experienced what she describes as an "Awakening" while addressing a youth church group. She realized the tribulations she experienced in the pool weren't the end of the world.
"I think after getting through feeling sorry for myself, I decided I still had things to prove to myself and to the world," she says. "As soon as I got my mind in the right frame, I was more determined and motivated than ever. All I had to think about was sitting in the stands for the 400 IM and remembering watching my teammates and people I know stand up on the awards podium and get gold medals and the national anthem playing. All those moments of glory (for others). I want that. I really want that."
The new dedication propelled Quance to a tremendous season.
Although the USC women's swimmers had never finished higher than fourth at the NCAA Championships, Quance led them to the title in March to end a five-year reign by Stanford. She won the 400 yards IM (4:06.54) by over six seconds and the 200 yards breast (2:09.62) and was second to SMU's Martina Moravcova in the 200 yards IM.
"I could take everything I've done, and it doesn't even compare (with the winning team title)," says Quance, who also gained a renewed interest in school by changing her major from exercise science to communcations. "It was an amazing feeling. We had so much fun because no one expected us to do anything.
"When I win a race, I'm happy. But I don't get overexcited. I'm not the kind of person who is going to jump up and down and scream. But when we won (the NCAAs), you can do that with other people. You can cry. I just remember bawling with my roommate. We were the two seniors on the team. I couldn't sleep the night before and that afternoon. We were just hyped up and had this adrenalin."
|Kristine Quance, USA|
|BIRTHDATE||APR 1, 1975|
|PLACE||Los Angeles, CA|
|HEIGHT||5 ft. 8 in. / 173 cm|
|WEIGHT||143 lbs / 65 kg|
|REPRESENTS||Trojan Swim Team|
|Long Course Progression and World Rankings|
|Year||100 Br||200 Br||200 Fly||200 I.M.||400 I.M.|
The team championship meant so much to Quance because four years earlier, after having set national high school records in the 100 yard breast (1:01.79) and 200 IM (1:59.5 to break Janet Evans' mark), she turned down perennial power Stanford for USC, which had finished a lowly 13th the previous year.
"I was going out on a limb," she says. "I had some sure titles by going to Stanford, but I wanted to be part of something new. I knew Mark (Schubert) was the coach to do it."
Schubert had taken over the USC women's team the previous season after having become the most successful club coach in U.S. history at Mission Viejo and Mission Bay and winning a couple of NCAA women's titles at Texas.
Following the NCAAs, Quance didn't take a break.
"As soon as I got myself into (swimming) mentally, everything else followed along. I trained harder than ever because I wanted to. I was so driven. And coming off the NCAAs after we won, that kept the ball rolling."
At the U.S. Championships in Nashville this summer, Quance not only made the U.S. team for the World Championships, she qualified in four events and captured the women's high-point award. She swept the IMs (2:13.55, 4:39.67), took seconds in the 100 breast (1:09.63) and 200 fly (2:09.85) and a third in the 200 breast (2:29.31).
"This past year was the healthiest season she's had since I coached her," explains Schubert. "That's why she improved so much, particularly in the 200 fly. She is a great testament to the fact you can continue to swim well past college, even in the longer events."
At the Pan Pacific Championships, Quance won the IMs easily (2:13.79, 4:39.61) and improved her personal best in the 200 fly to 2:09.29 in finishing second to Australia's Susan O'Neill. The U.S. star never swam the 200 fly seriously in college because she already had the three-event limit with the breaststroke and the IMs.
"The butterfly is like a bonus event," says Schubert. "We knew the potential was there. At nationals, it was at the end of the meet, so we didn't feel it was going to get in the way of any other event. We worked on that as a fun event. It ended up to be one of her best."
Although she's ranked fifth in the world in the 200 fly, Quance hardly trains for the event and has no plans to change her workout routine.
"I figure if I can swim that fast without training fly, maybe I don't need to" she says. "I still do a bit of it in my IM training. I've had too many shoulder problems to pound out the butterfly yardage. I don't want to hurt myself."
Quance swims 14,000 to 15,000 metres a day in her workouts and also runs 30 to 45 minutes six days a week. Because she changed her major at USC, she needs to complete three more classes to graduate but is taking just one this fall to concentrate on training for the World Championships.
"I look forward to it (Perth) since the Olympic medallists will be there, especially Michelle Smith-DeBruin," Quance says. "She's the gold medallist and I'm a nobody trying to run her down. I am the underdog, which is fun for me. Who knows what to expect from the 200 fly because I keep improving every time I swim it lately. I feel I'm still learning to swim it."
Schubert sees Perth as an opportunity for his swimmer "to show the world what she can do."
Quance signed a two-year endorsement deal with Nike, making swimming "my job now." She says, "It's like a dream job for me because I love it. I think it's great that swimming is getting into the professional side where we can continue to compete after college."