While the timing of the world championships in Perth was off-season for the entire northern hemisphere, American swimmers arrived in Perth excited and ready to go. They said they would not let the time of year be a hindrance. World record-holder and defending world champion in the 400 IM Tom Dolan said, "After the Pan Pacifics, it was a disappointing summer for me. I had some health problems...but I got right back into it and trained really hard through August, September, October, and November. A big meet is a big meet no matter what month you put it in, and I think we're ready to race and swim fast, no matter what time of year it is."
Freestyler Josh Davis agreed, saying that his motto had always been, "If you can't win, make the guy ahead of you break the record."
As for the American women, the presence of the controversial Chinese team represented just another challenge. Sporting a red hat with a "No Drugs" button on it, veteran Jenny Thompson expressed her opinion quietly. "I don't think it's fair to have to swim against swimmers who are taking drugs," she said. "But it's something we've been dealing with for years, so we're pretty used to it."
Teammate Amy van Dyken, who became the most successful American woman at the 1996 Olympic Games with four gold medals, was more vocal. A self-proclaimed "ham" and an experienced public speaker, she spoke at length on the Chinese drug problem. "It's not even a point anymore. It's not going to affect how we train, how we race, or anything. We're just doing what we love to do, which is swim fast." Davis said he would volunteer in a minute for blood testing, and van Dyken quickly agreed.
"It's sad for the sport that FINA is not taking more of a stand on this," she said. "But for me, I'm going to go about it just like I did in Atlanta, and that's by thinking that these girls are beatable. I've trained too hard to let this stop me from doing what I want to do." Van Dyken explained the role of swimmers like herself and Thompson who has six Olympic medals-five of them gold-at home in her treasure chest in supporting the younger American women.
"We help to clear up things like the China controversy. Let's face it, it wouldn't be a world championships without controversy! I think it's got to make us mentally tougher. I know that from Atlanta, where I won it (the 50) in the ready room. I discovered they (the Chinese) don't like to be stared at. So I did lots of staring, jumped up and down, and made a lot of noise."
"After the announcement (of the human growth hormone seizure in Sydney) we discussed it with the team for maybe 15 minutes. But we're not here to get involved in that," she said. "It's actually taken some of the pressure off us, which is nice...so we're focussing on our team cheers."
Then she laughed, "Until I get put on the FINA board, I think there's nothing much I can do!"
She went on to say that it saddened her to think that every race would somehow be tainted in Perth, with the Chinese being subjected to a "leary eye," but added that compared to 1994, "We are a lot stronger, and for us the championships will be different. I enjoy everything about this sport and I want to enjoy the racing, the atmosphere, and have a good time."