Botsford lacks kick in chase for 3rd medal Timonium teen rTC 'didn't stay determined enough,' misses 200-meter final

Atlanta Olympics

July 26, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Beth Botsford left something on the table.

The 15-year-old backstroker from Timonium looked like a favorite to win a third Olympic medal in yesterday's 200-meter backstroke, but she swam well off her best time in the morning preliminary and failed to make the evening final.

Botsford finished in 2: 14.16, more than three seconds behind the time that qualified her for the event at the Olympic trials in Indianapolis. She ranked sixth going into the final preliminary heat, but was edged out by New Zealand's Anna Simcic for the final place in the medal race.

"I know what I did wrong," Botsford said. "I think I was too ready for it to be my last race. I had already won two gold medals. It's not that it went to my head, but I didn't stay determined enough."

It was a disappointing end to a dream week for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club's newest Olympic star, but it did nothing to tarnish her overall performance. She could have maxed out with a third gold medal, but -- if there is a positive spin to be put on a losing effort -- she still will have an unfulfilled goal to carry beyond the Atlanta Games.

"When you have a lot of success, you also need something to work toward in the future," said NBAC coach Murray Stephens, an assistant on the Olympic coaching staff. "Now, she has something to go after at the world championships in Australia in 1998."

And, presumably, the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

"This has been a great experience for me," Botsford said. "There'll never be another one like this, but [the next time] I'll be bigger, I'll be stronger and I'll have more experience."

Botsford won the 100 backstroke on Monday to become the first American woman to win a gold medal in Atlanta. She came back to win another gold in the 400 medley relay on Wednesday night, but the rigors of that event may have contributed to her slow performance yesterday morning.

She had to swim the 100 backstroke leg in the medley relay, then take part in a medal ceremony, a news conference, her post-race warm-down and the routine drug testing that every winning athlete undergoes at the Games, then go back to the Olympic Village and try to get a few hours of sleep before competing again.

Stephens said he knew she might have problems. He said so even before Wednesday night's race, but there was no second-guessing the decision to race in Wednesday's relay. That was the closest thing to a guaranteed medal in the swim competition. The United States team never has won less than a silver in the event in an Olympics.

Meanwhile, U.S. teammate Whitney Hedgepeth, who swam the backstroke leg in the morning prelim on Wednesday to win her first gold medal of the Games, came back to qualify second in yesterday's morning heats and went on to win the silver medal in the final, though she finished well behind Hungarian world-record holder Krisztina Egerszegi.

Perhaps if their roles had been reversed in the relay, both might have made it into yesterday's final. Hedgepeth, 25, is the more seasoned swimmer, and might have been better able to have handled the quick turnaround, but that was not an option that the U.S. coaching staff considered.

Technically, the coaches could have altered the relay lineup, but the United States follows a strict protocol that awards the medal race in the medley relays to the highest American finisher in each individual stroke.

Botsford clearly displayed some fatigue in the morning preliminary, leading for most of her heat before fading to third in the final 50 meters. She was still alive in the event until a late rush by Simcic in the final heat.

That brought an end to a very successful week for the NBAC. Teammate Whitney Metzler competed in the 400 individual medley on the opening day of the Olympics and swam a 4: 44.74, more than two seconds better than her best time, to earn a surprise place in the medal final. She didn't get to the medal platform, but she enjoyed the experience and still is young enough to look forward to the next Olympiad.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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