Eyes spy for Sydney gold

Swimming: Baltimore's Tommy Hannan has a mission to accomplish: to defeat the world's best in the 100-meter buterfly. Impossible, you say? Like his idol James Bond, Hannan's not deterred.

Summer Olympics

September 08, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Hannan.

Tommy Hannan.

As in Bond. James Bond.

When he earned a berth on the U.S. Olympic swim team last month, Tommy Hannan didn't fulfill a childhood fantasy. He never dreamed of being Mark Spitz, or Cal Ripken for that matter. He excelled in a variety of youth sports with a singular approach, as Hannan simply emulated teammates who were a little older, a little better.

There is one superhero, however, who quickens Hannan's pulse. When he jetted from Los Angeles to Australia earlier this week, Hannan packed his Nintendo 64. If he's not training, eating or talking trash, chances are Hannan is working the controls on his James Bond GoldenEye game.

"It's the greatest game ever created," Hannan said, with only a hint of sarcasm. "A lot of things getting blown up. It helps take up down time, and we have a lot of down time right now."

Hannan spoke last week, before an afternoon workout at Rose Bowl Aquatics, where he and the rest of the U.S. swim team conducted a two-week training camp below the San Gabriel Mountains. The Americans are conducting another five days of closed-door workouts in Brisbane, and they move into the Olympic Village next week.

Down time does not sit well with Hannan, a 20-year-old graduate of Mount St. Joseph High and a product of the Eagle Swim Team who has always been a daredevil.

His father remembered a summer vacation in 1981, when Tommy jumped off a motel pool diving board. He was 1 1/2 . Hannan used to jump into Liberty Reservoir from a bridge off Route 32. He is midway through his studies at the University of Texas, and for a diversion, Hannan and other Longhorns swimmers camp at Lake Travis and dive off a 40-foot cliff.

"My coach [Eddie Reese] says it's my need for attention," Hannan said.

Hannan is going to get plenty Down Under.

James Bond, the fictional British spy, overcame ridiculous odds to foil Dr. No and Jaws and Xenia Onatopp, but those villains were nothing compared to the real perils Hannan in particular and the Americans in general will face at the Sydney International Aquatic Center (SIAC).

Swimming is as big in Australia as college basketball is in Kentucky, and the SIAC seats 17,500. Hannan will swim the 100-meter butterfly, an event in which the Australians expect to go 1-2. Michael Klim, an Australian, set the world record of 51.81 seconds last year, but he was beaten in his nation's Olympic trials by Geoff Huegill.

"There aren't going to be too many people cheering for us," Hannan said. "They sell alcohol at the aquatic center, and it's going to be rowdy. The wildest thing I've seen at a Texas football game is the OU [Oklahoma University] weekend in Dallas. That's pretty crazy. It was good preparation for Sydney."

He will miss the fall semester at Texas and have a small cheering section in Sydney, where his Uncle John, known to all as "Uncle Yo," has worked and lived the past two years. Tommy's brother Stephen, a student at St. Joe; their parents, Tom and Georgia; and their paternal grandfather, 79-year-old Tom Sr., plan to make the trip.

The Hannan clan is going halfway around the world, because Tommy reverted to his reckless ways at the U.S. trials in Indianapolis.

He had the fourth-fastest time in the semifinals, and if form held, he wouldn't be fast enough to claim one of the two American berths. Before the final, Texas coach Reese and Austin roommate Jamie Rauch, who made the U.S. team in the 200 freestyle, harped on Hannan about his habit of tentative starts.

All Hannan did in the final was touch the 50 wall in 24.31 seconds, more than 0.3 of a second ahead of his closest pursuer. Hannan was passed late by Ian Crocker, but his time of 52.81 was more than two seconds quicker than the personal best he brought into this year.

Hannan, who wasn't on the cover of the Texas media guide or mentioned among the trials favorites, said he is primed for another breakthrough, which would make him a medal contender.

"I can go a lot faster than 52.81," Hannan said.

There's more to Hannan than his brash jock persona.

He has been something of a big brother to Michael Phelps, the 15-year-old from Rodgers Forge who is the youngest member of the American men's team since 1932. At Rose Bowl Aquatics, Hannan made Phelps part of the Texas mafia, the sizable portion of the men's team that trains in Austin. A finance major, Hannan carries a 2.9 cumulative grade-point average, and he's also handy with a hammer.

"Tommy worked one summer as a framer," said his father, Tom. "He was a big help when I put a storage shed up in our yard, although he got frustrated with me and I got frustrated with him. He's not as analytical as I am. He wants to do things quickly."

Quickly, and dangerously.

Hannan file

Date of birth: Jan. 14, 1980

Height: 6 feet 2

Weight: 190

Residence: Ellicott Mills

Club: Eagle Swim Team

High school: Mount St. Joseph

College: Texas

Olympic event: 100-meter butterfly

How he got to Sydney: Finished second at the U.S. trials last month, in 52.81 seconds.

The competition

Tommy Hannan has the ninth-fastest time in the world this year, but only two of the four Australians above him will compete. The world's top 10 follows:

Name Nation '00 best

Geoff Heugill Aust'lia 52.19

Michael Klim Aust'lia 52.20

Lars Frolander Sweden 52.23

F. Esposito France 52.52

T. Rupprath Ger. 52.58

Adam Pine Aust'lia 52.72

Ian Crocker U.S. 52.78

Scott Miller Aust'lia 52.79

Hannan U.S. 52.81

Zsolt Gaspar U.S. 52.87

Source: Swim News Online

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