Swimming trials notebook

Phelps won't lose $1M if he's not on podium

Relay spot held irrelevant

Hoff's future is weighed


July 12, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Like any sport, swimming has its own rhythm, language and customs.

A gold medal at the Olympics is a good thing, unless it comes in a "morning" relay, during the preliminaries, when the United States typically sends out its second foursome.

Only a nation's four finalists get to stand on the medal podium during awards ceremonies, which could have been a costly nuance for Michael Phelps.

Stu Isaac, a Speedo executive, said the terms of the $1 million bonus Phelps will receive from the swimsuit company if he can match the seven gold medals won by Mark Spitz in 1972 require that he be on the podium for them to count.

Isaac, however, said Speedo will ignore that provision if Phelps swims a morning relay in Athens and isn't on the U.S. foursome that wins gold at night.

That's exactly what happened at the 2003 world championships in which Ian Crocker upset Phelps in the 100 butterfly. Crocker swam that leg in the medley relay at night, after Phelps did preliminary duty.

"I haven't discussed this with Peter Carlisle [Phelps' agent], but I know how we're going to handle it," Isaac said. "If Michael wins seven gold medals and one of them is a morning swim, that will be an incredible accomplishment and we will recognize it. We will do the right thing."

Carlisle had no comment on the terms of the bonus offer.

"I've said all along that the Speedo contract provides fair and reasonable compensation for the value created by Michael and conveyed to Speedo," Carlisle said. "If Michael wins seven gold medals, it will be a historic accomplishment, but it isn't all about the money."

The $1 million bonus from Speedo also will be available at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Hoff on fast track?

When Phelps signed with Speedo in September 2001, three months past his 16th birthday, he became the youngest American male swimmer to turn professional.

The youngest American woman to turn pro was Anita Nall, another member of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club who won multiple medals at the 1992 Olympics, just after her 16th birthday.

Is it possible Katie Hoff might follow the trail that was blazed at the NBAC? The 15-year-old has emerged as a serious gold-medal contender in the 400 individual medley, and also won the 200 IM at the U.S. trials. Her freshman year of college would be the 2008 pre-Olympic year.

"We're going to delay that decision as late as possible," said Hoff's mother, Jeanne. "I really want her to be able to participate in NCAA swimming and share the experience of being a student as well as an athlete. It all depends on how fast she improves and how high she goes."

For now, the home-schooled Hoff is being compared to Amanda Beard, the three-time Olympian she beat in the 200 IM. In Atlanta, the 14-year-old Beard was famous for carrying "Harold," her teddy bear, onto the medal podium.

Yes, Hoff traveled with a red, white and blue "Build a Bear" that a younger member of the NBAC's Harford County satellite team gave her earlier this year.

Hoff, who missed tonight's 200 breaststroke final by 0.26 of a second, is getting national television exposure that will only increase during NBC's marathon telecasts from Athens.

Her mother said she can never remember being on television when she posted some basketball scoring records that still stand at Stanford University.

Hoff was born at Stanford Hospital on June 3, 1989. Where will the U.S. Olympic training camp be held? Stanford.

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