For Kole, Long Road Back May Lead To Olympic Swim Team

March 01, 1992|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff writer

Two years ago, Julie Kole wasn't sure she wanted to swim any more.

This week, she could end up on the Olympic team. For Kole, now a freshman at Stanford University, the road back from the forgetable yearof 1990 has been worth the struggle. She is the second-ranked American in the 200-meter butterfly world rankings.

The 18-year old from Fallston will swim four events at the National Swimming Championships, which begin today in Indianapolis. The toptwo finishers in each race

will make the Olympic team and swim inBarcelona this summer.

Although most of Kole's past success has been in distance freestyle events, she has her best chance to qualify in the 200 fly. Her best 1991 time of 2:11.70 puts her second to Stanford teammate Summer Sanders (2:09.24).

Kole also will swim the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle races. In 1988, Kole finished third in the 800 free at the Olympic Trials.

In 1990, her career took a dive. While a junior at Germantown Academy near Philadelphia, Kole struggled in a meet at the binter nationals in March.

Kole had discovered right before the meet that her parents, Bernard and Judy Kole, were considering getting a divorce. But Kole, whose parents remained together, said that was just a small part of the problem. Travel to four international meets -- in France, Russia, Tokyo and Australia -- in 15 months also had taken a toll.

"I thought about quitting," said Kole."I guess I just decided I wanted to have more of a normal life. By the time I started up again, I was raring to go."

In the fall, she suffered another setback. Injured in an automobile accident, she spent a couple of days in the hospital. A few weeks after the accident, she earned a spot on the world championship team. She finished 12th inthe 800 freestyle at the World Championships in January 1991.

Hersteady improvement continued at the summer nationals last year when she won the 400 freestyle and took sixth in the 400 individual medley.

Tomorrow morning, Kole will swim her first event of the 1992 Olympic trials, the 200 free. She will finish off the meet, which runs through Saturday, with the 200 fly on Friday.

"I don't know why, but I usually swim the best at the end of the meet," said Kole. "I'm very confident about the butterfly. I'm really looking forward to swimming."

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