Barrowman makes big splash Potomac swimmer beats world record to ease U.S. pain

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

BARCELONA, Spain -- Mike Barrowman put the United States swimming team on top of the world.

The U.S. squad needed a lift and Barrowman gave them a gold medal and a world record in the 200-meter breaststroke yesterday.

The 23-year-old from Potomac, Md., bettered his year-old mark of 2 minutes, 10.60 seconds with a time of 2:10.1. Hungry's Norbert Rozsa won the silver medal in 2:11.23 and Great Britain's Nick Gillingham won the bronze with a time of 2:11.29.

"You really don't think about the record, you think about the place," said Barrowman. "You have dreams all the time about what it would be like to win the gold. I was surprised to find it was exaltation instead of relief."

His effort completed swimming's triple crown: world record, world champion, Olympic champion.

And it may have been ignited by U.S. men's coach Eddie Reese, who looked up Mike Barrowman yesterday afternoon at the Olympic Village.

No names were mentioned, but Reese may have pointed out that some of the other big names on the U.S. team had not performed well in these games.

Janet Evans. Jenny Thompson. Matt Biondi.

"Reese said, 'You've been the U.S Swimmer of the Year three times and there's a reason for that. You've always been able to come in when the team is down and lift them up,' " said Barrowman.

"At the end of the race I knew I could win it and I enjoyed it," said Barrowman. "Now that I've got the world record, maybe it can get us going."

The gold medal and the record was full redemption for Barrowman. It erased the disappointment of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, where he was the favorite and finished fourth.

"In 1988, I walked in, and I was a rookie," Barrowman said. "I didn't really realize what was going on, and the pressure got to me. This time, I came in actually expecting absolutely the very worst possible, and nothing affected me."

His victory also silenced the criticism he had received after the U.S. Olympic trials in March, where he finished second, his first loss in four years.

It was later learned that his father had been diagnosed as having a brain tumor. After surgery last June, Ray Barrowman was left blind and needed round-the-clock hospital care.

He died in April, two weeks after the U.S. trials.

"I never wanted to use him as an excuse, never wanted to bring him into the picture," said Barrowman. "I made the Olympic team and that was it.

"My goal, every day since the 1988 Games in Seoul, was to make it back to the Olympics, not to the trials. I wanted to be here, in a position to win the gold."

Records also fell in two earlier races yesterday.

Evgueni Sadovyi of the Unified Team became the meet's only triple gold medal winner and set the world record in the 400 freestyle. No American qualified for that final.

Qian Hong of China set an Olympic record in the 100 butterfly in which Crissy Ahmann-Leighton's silver was America's only medal.

Then it was Barrowman's turn. Maybe his performance was the wake-up call the rest of the U.S. team needed.

In the two races that followed Barrowman's, Anita Nall -- who already had a bronze medal in the 200 breaststroke -- won a silver in the 100 breaststroke, and the U.S. men's 400 freestyle relay team won a gold medal.

The Unified Team was second and Germany third. The United States has won the relay all six times it has been raced in the Olympics and Tom Jager and Matt Biondi later became the first male Olympic swimmers to win gold medals in three Olympiads when the relay team finished in 3:16.74. Joe Hudepohl lead off and Jon Olsen anchored.

"We watched Mike's swim in the ready room before the relay," Jager said. "We knew we had our work cut out for us.

"Mike has really been a big part of this team and he's always showed a lot of guts," said Jager. "I think we're going to be looking pretty solid from here on out."

Sadovyi became the first Olympic swimmer to win the 200 and 400 freestyles in the same year. His time of 3:45.00 shattered the world record of 3:46.47 set last April by Australia's Kieren Perkins, who finished second. Anders Holmertz of Sweden, second in the 200, was third.

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