Baltimore's Hannan headed to Olympics

He sheds butterflies, takes second in 100 fly to join Phelps in Sydney

`Weight lifted off my back'

Botsford's bid ends with 6th-place finish

August 16, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - Lenny Krayzelburg told him to go to bed.

Michael Phelps told him to go for it.

Tommy Hannan turned a late night into the performance of his career, as the 20-year-old out of Mount St. Joseph High School and the Eagle Swim Team delivered one of the more amazing breakthroughs at the U.S. trials for the Olympic Games with a second place in the 100-meter butterfly last night.

Hannan is headed to Sydney, Australia, as a member of the U.S. team. Four years ago, when he briefly contemplated quitting the sport, the only way it appeared he would ever get Down Under was to visit an uncle who lives in the Olympic city. Now his parents, Tom and Georgia, and his brother Stephen have a place to flop next month.

"I feel like a 2,000-pound weight has been lifted off my back," said Hannan, whose musculature sets him apart from most male swimmers.

The only pressure on Hannan was self-imposed.

He was a World University Games champion last year in the 200 individual medley, but had never been known for his butterfly leg. No trials prognosticators mentioned him as a factor in the 100 fly. Hannan became one last month, when he lowered his best to 53.56 seconds in a low-key meet at the University of Texas, where he's a scholarship student-athlete.

He bettered that with a 53.43 in the preliminaries Monday morning, but when Hannan backed off to a 53.51 in that night's semifinals, he drew the fourth seed and it appeared that he would begin his junior year in Austin on time.

Instead, Hannan finally took the race out like he knew he was capable, and reached the 50 wall in 24.31, a midway split that had the P.A. announcer mentioning the world record of 51.81 established by Australian Michael Klim last year. Hannan had a three-tenths of a second lead on Bryan Jones.

Ian Crocker caught Hannan in the closing meters, and touched in 52.78. Hannan's time was 52.81, as they became the second- and third-fastest Americans ever in the event. One of them is going to get Neil Walker's American record of 52.76 in Sydney.

Crocker is the first U.S. Olympic swimmer ever from Maine; Hannan's history involves what is believed to be the first U.S. men's team to include two Baltimoreans.

The butterfly was sweet to the locals, as Phelps, the 15-year-old from Towson, was second in the 200 version last Saturday. He spoke with Hannan Monday, and wished him well.

Hannan could not relax that night. Twenty hours before the biggest race of his career, he wandered to the lobby of his hotel and mindlessly flipped through a People magazine he borrowed from the night clerk. He can't recall a word he read.

"Lenny Krayzelburg came up and asked me what was wrong," Hannan said, of an encounter with the world's best backstroker. "I told him that there was so much to think about. He said `Every good swimmer has been where you are right now.' I calmed down and went to bed."

That was 1:30 a.m., in the wee, wee hours of yesterday morning.

Hannan awoke six hours later, and prepared mentally by stewing about his slow starts in the first two rounds. Crocker, who's only 17, will eventually join him in Texas. In effect, the program accounted for four of last night's top five finishers, and it seemed that every Longhorn Hannan encountered ragged him about his slow starts.

"I told Tommy, `You can go out in the first 25 [meters] like you did in the first two rounds and watch the Olympics on TV,' " Texas coach Eddie Reese said. " `Or, you can try to get out like you know you can.' There's no luck involved in this. Tommy had a case of the nerves his freshman year at the NCAA meet. He decided he didn't like that."

When Crocker and Hannan were introduced as Olympians to a crowd of 4,000 at the IU Natatorium, the Baltimorean gave them the "Hook 'em Horns" sign, then waved to his parents, who were seated nearby. They got in town last Wednesday, and went stir crazy as Tommy was pulled out of two events by Reese.

"Overwhelming," Georgia Hannan said of her son's achievement.

"We've been thinking about this, but we didn't want to get too optimistic," said Tom Hannan, his father. "My wife didn't bring the camera, because we didn't want to jinx him."

The outcome did not surprise Scott Ward, the McDonogh School teacher who coached Hannan at the Eagle Swim Club. Earlier yesterday, he predicted Hannan would win. Ward and Sean Hutchinson, another Eagle coach who worked with Tommy in Baltimore and has since moved to Oregon, were introduced as his coaches, a magnanimous gesture on Reese's part.

Hannan would dearly love to return to his Ellicott Mills neighborhood on the west side of Baltimore County, but he must report to USA Swimming's training camp in southern California on Sunday.

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