Nall wins silver medal, keeps her eye on the gold Towson teen swims in medley relay today

July 30, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- Anita Nall's infectious smile was back.

Her voice was vibrant and her eyes sparkled as brightly as the silver medal that had just been placed around her neck.

"Unbelievable," said Nall, 16, from Towson. "This won't sink in until I get home. A bronze medal, a silver medal and another shot at the gold."

And an American record, too.

Yesterday, Nall got her silver in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Her time of 1 minute, 8.17 seconds was the best in American history, just .17 of a second behind gold-medal winner Elena Roudkovskaia of Belarus, competing for the Unified Team. Australia's Samantha Riley won the bronze in 1:09.25.

This morning, Nall competes in her final event -- the 400-meter medley relay, with Lea Loveless, Jenny Thompson and Crissy Ahmann-Leighton.

"A lot of people thought I was going to win three gold medals, and so many people make you feel like a loser after you win a bronze," said Nall, who cried after finishing third in the 200 breaststroke Monday.

"There's just a lot of pressure," she said. "I think I had the opening jitters Monday. But I realized it's not bad winning a bronze medal, to be the third best in the world at something. Today, I just came out and relaxed. started enjoying swimming again. And now to come out with a personal best and an American record at the same time, well, is pretty cool."

The United States picked up a world record as well yesterday, when Mike Barrowman, 23, of Potomac won the 200 breaststroke in 2:10.16. It was the sixth time in his last 18 major races that he had set the record, this time bettering his previous mark of 2:10.60. Barrowman was fourth in the same race at the 1988 Olympics; he is 16-1 at the distance since.

To prepare for yesterday's 100-meter race, Nall relaxed by watching TV. She also turned on the radio. Listened to some Erasure. And a little U2. Played with some Troll-Dolls.

She also had an impromptu, no-talk training session on Tuesday with Murray Stephens, her personal coach who runs the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

Stephens has been unable to speak with or help Nall train since she arrived in Barcelona. The International Olympic Committee did not issue him a credential, and Nall has been under strict team rules basically prohibiting contact with anyone not connected with the U.S. swimming team.

Nall has seen her parents only once in the past three weeks, and met with them for only 15 seconds after yesterday's race.

"Murray was on the swim deck outside the gate," Nall said. "He watched me swim Monday, thought I was leaning too far forward when I should have been coming straight up. Actually, I had a stroke like Mike Barrowman, and we have totally different body chemistry.

"Murray was too far away and I couldn't talk to him," Nall said. "He just squirmed his shoulders to let me know what I was doing wrong. People were walking by looking at him like he was crazy."

Something worked. Nall had a strong start and trailed by only .32 of a second at 50 meters. But she made one mistake in an otherwise flawless race: She was slow out of the turn.

She almost caught Roudkovskaia in the final 20 meters.

"Actually, I thought she did and had won," said her father, John Nall. "But maybe I had a bad angle. Anyway, she swam a great race. We're really proud of her."

Anita Nall would not second-guess what might have happened if she had received Stephens' advice earlier. The simple tip might have been the difference between a bronze and the gold in the 200 meters. "I can't say what would have happened. I always thought going to the Olympics, that it is just another meet, and now I know it's true."

But Nall had never competed in an outdoor pool in front of thousands. "I knew she wouldn't like this environment," Stephens said. "She hasn't been able to talk to her family. It's like she is in prison."

In 1988, the U.S. swimming team allowed personal coaches but banned them after the Games in Seoul, South Korea.

"We went back to that system for a purpose, but except for Matt Biondi and Janet Evans, Seoul was a disaster for us," said Dennis Pursley, team leader of the U.S. swimming team, who said the team banned personal coaches with support from coaches and athletes.

It's an argument that could go on for quite a while. In the meantime, Nall, at times, is having one of the best times of her young life.

This morning she will be back, swimming the breaststroke in the 400-meter medley.

"One more chance for the gold," said Nall.

The infectious smile is back.

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