U.S. fortunes sink in rough day at pool Evans, Quance struggle

no American qualifies for men's 100 butterfly

Atlanta Olympics

July 25, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The U.S. medal count rose steadily through the first four days of the Olympic swimming competition at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, so maybe the American team was due for a dunking.

The U.S. women's team -- which featured Baltimore backstroker Beth Botsford -- won a gold medal in the 400-meter medley relay, but the Americans failed to qualify anyone for the final in the men's 100 butterfly for the first time in history and came very close to bidding a premature farewell to distance star Janet Evans.

There were some happy moments, but the heady feeling that came with a string of medal performances earlier in the competition was tempered by the suspense that surrounded Evans' preliminary heat in the 800 freestyle and the disappointing performance of several medal hopefuls during the morning session.

Evans, swimming with a broken fourth toe on her right foot, finished a mediocre third in the second heat of the preliminaries and had to sweat out two more races before finding out she would get one more chance at an Olympic medal in tonight's final. She qualified sixth and will go head-to-head with American rival Brooke Bennett, probably for the last time.

"I'm happy," Evans said. "It was a good swim for me. I was hoping to make it back [for tonight's final]. That was my goal."

The suspense was written on the faces of several of her coaches and teammates, but Evans insisted afterward that she was unconcerned as she swam slowly in the warm-up pool during the final two heats. In reality, she was very concerned, and spent part of the time near a U.S. Swimming official who apparently was getting updates on a walkie-talkie.

Bennett is considered the better bet for a medal, but Evans would love to go out on top. The question is whether Evans -- at 24 -- has enough left to finish with that kind of flourish, especially handicapped with what she described as a badly "stubbed" toe.

USC teammate Kristine Quance suffered through another disappointing day, even though she qualified for a medal as one of the morning swimmers in the women's 400 relay. She failed to reach the final in the 200 individual medley, which was her second and last chance for an individual medal.

Quance was inconsolable after washing out of the prelims in the 100 breaststroke on Sunday and was devastated after yesterday's race. She was so discouraged that she asked out of the relay because she felt she might hurt the team's chances.

It has not been a good Olympic experience for Quance, who did not get to swim her best event (the 400 individual medley) because she was disqualified at the U.S. trials for making an illegal turn. The DQ created an opportunity for North Baltimore Aquatic Club swimmer Whitney Metzler to make the U.S. team -- and she made the final with a strong morning performance -- but Quance owned the fourth-best American time in history and figured to be a medal contender.

The United States had never won less than a silver medal in the men's 100 butterfly (except in the boycotted 1980 Games), but Fort Washington native Mark Henderson failed to qualify for the final by four-hundredths of a second.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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