INDIANAPOLIS — C INDIANAPOLIS -- One lane over, the two swimmers were hugging and weeping, talking of going to the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
One lane over, a technician with a television minicam was circling from above on the pool deck, flashing his light on the water, trying to capture this perfect image of triumph.
Julie Gorman of Lutherville could have reached out and touched the Olympians, now. Instead, she was floating against the wall, squinting at the scoreboard, searching for the numbers that would tell her how close she had come to second place in the women's 200-meter butterfly, how close she had come to Barcelona.
"There's nothing I can do about it now," she would say later. "Nothing."
Last night, all that separated Gorman from the Olympics was 37 hundredths of a second. In a meet where only the top two finishers win Olympic berths, Gorman was third in the 200 butterfly in the 1992 Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships.
"I guess it wasn't in the cards," said Gorman, who finished in 2 minutes, 12.50 seconds.
Ahead of Gorman, were a future star of summer and a 27-year-old veteran who reached her first Olympics in four tries. Summer Sanders, a 19-year-old Stanford sophomore, won the race in 2:08.86. Angie Wester-Krieg, a tax accountant who first attempted to qualify for an Olympic team in 1980, was second in 2:12.13.
Sanders would talk in a news conference, later, telling everyone how excited she was about her performance here, winning the 200 and 400 individual medleys, finishing second in the 100 butterfly, and winning the 200 butterly.
And Wester-Krieg would talk of past disappointments, of swimming at San Jose State, of taking a job with the accounting firm of Ernst and Young, and of resuming full-time training two years ago.
"I thought it was my turn in this race," Wester-Krieg said.
So did Gorman.
She too had endured past disappointments at the Olympic trials. Four years ago in Austin, Texas, she was this hot-shot NCAA champion from the University of Florida, expected to qualify in either the 100 or 200 butterfly. But she finished fifth in the 100, and sixth in the 200, and left the pool in tears.
"That was a rough year all-around," she said. "I wasn't happy with training. I wasn't happy with swimming."
Still, she refused to quit. She finished second in the 100 butterfly at the 1989 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, and tied for fifth in the 100 butterfly at the 1991 World Championships.
Last April, she decided to come back to Maryland, returning to her roots with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Towson. She rejoined her coach, Murray Stephens, and together they plotted a course to the trials. At 24, with her college career behind her, and her professional career in computer and information sciences ahead of her, Gorman viewed this season as her last, best chance to get to the Olympics.
Last night, she was strong and in command for the first 100 meters, just off the pace established by Sanders, but ahead of Wester-Krieg. But in the third 50 meters, she fell to third, and spent the rest of the race trying to make up space.
"She came on strong," Stephens said. "It wasn't like she went bye-bye out there. She was fighting for it at the end."
Gorman came close to Barcelona. Missed it by a blink of an eye.
As Wester-Krieg and Sanders celebrated, Gorman pulled herself from the water, and sat on a bench. Water dripped from her suit. She was shivering. Stephens sat next to her and put his arm around her. Four nights earlier, Stephens was celebrating the world record recorded by his 15-year-old phenom, Anita Nall. Now, he was consoling a veteran.
"It's hard to take someone and let them commit an extra year of their life after college, know they are competitive and they can be there," Stephens said. "Third place is not the same as first or second. Thirty-seven hundredths of a second. The time doesn't really matter, does it?"
MEN 200 individual medley
1, Ron Karnaugh, Maplewood, N.J., 2:01.56. 2, Greg Burgess, Jacksonville, Fla., 2:01.71. 3, Mike Barrowman, Potomac, Md., 2:01.79. 4, Eric Namesnik, Butler, Pa., 2:02.20. 5, David Wharton, Warminster, Pa., 2:03.47. 6, Ray Looze, Belmont, Ca., 2:03.48. 7, Paul Nelsen, Lincoln, Neb., 2:04.29. 8, Trip Zedlitz, Oklahoma City, 2:05.65.
1, Sean Killion, Cherry Hill, N.J., 15:07.21. 2, Lawrence Frostad, Sacramento, Calif., 15:09.93. 3, Carlton Bruner, Atlanta, 15:11.24. 4, Matt Hooper, San Antonio, 15:19.10. 5, Peter Wright, Delran, N.J., 15:33.45. 6, Robert Darzynkiewicz, Chappaqua, N.Y., 15:34.05. 7, Lars P. Jorgensen, San Diego, 15:34.70. 8, Steven Herron, Kirkland, Wash., 15:44.16.
WOMEN 50 freestyle