Looking a bit peaked


Hoff finishes fourth in 200 free and 200 IM

August 13, 2008|By Philip Hersh | Philip Hersh,Chicago Tribune

BEIJING - Maybe all this simply was too much for Katie Hoff.

Talk of gold medals and a sack full of medals. Five individual events - none shorter than 200 meters - and a relay. Two finals, the 200-meter freestyle and 200 individual medley, within 58 minutes of each other this morning.

No matter what she has done, it somehow hasn't been quite enough.

Hoff swam slower than her personal best times in the first two events, the 400 IM and 400 freestyle, but won bronze and silver medals.

Today, she broke her own U.S. record in the 200 free - and was fourth, as Italy's Federica Pellegrini won with a world-record time. In the 200 IM, she finished fourth again, beaten for the bronze by fellow American Natalie Coughlin.

The 200 free was one of four world records set during a 22-minute span in the first four races on today's program, including one by Michael Phelps (nothing new there) in the 200 butterfly.

"I would really have liked a medal, but I swam my best time," Hoff said before getting ready for the individual medley. "I can't be upset with that, and I'm just moving on to the next race."

Although Hoff insisted after the 200 IM she was not disappointed, she stayed to answer media questions for just 38 seconds before walking briskly away.

She also would not say the workload was too heavy.

"I did this double at the trials, so I was confident I could pull it off here," Hoff said. "I wasn't as fast as I wanted in the 200 IM."

Hoff's 2 minutes, 10.68 seconds in the IM was more than two seconds slower than winner Stephanie Rice's world-record time of 2:08.45.

Hoff's 200 free time of 1:55.78 was one-tenth better than her previous best but far behind Pellegrini's 1:54.82.

Sara Isakovic of Slovenia won silver in 1:54.97, and China's Pang Jiaying bronze in an Asian record 1:55.05.

Hoff was third at the 50, 100 and 150 splits but could not hold the slim lead she had over Pang at the final turn.

"It's so hard," Hoff said of the Olympic meet after the 400 free. "People say, 'Don't worry about it, think of it as just another meet.' It's not just another meet."

And it came not long after the demanding U.S. Olympic trials.

"Our Olympic trials are so hard," 1964 Olympic champion Donna DeVarona said. "If you had to peak there, it is very fatiguing and difficult to get that peak back.

"Michael didn't peak at trials, and you can see what he is doing here."

Both Phelps and Hoff qualified in five demanding individual events at trials, and each also swam one round of the 100 meters to establish credentials for being included on the 400 freestyle relay. Phelps eventually swam the relay, but Hoff did not.

"She's a terrifically conditioned athlete," said U.S. women's coach Jack Bauerle, addressing the idea Hoff looks overburdened. "On the outside, it looks like she's disappointed, but she has her head up high now and she's a tough, tough kid.

"The format isn't easy, but every time she has been beaten, it's been by a great swim."

Hoff looked numb during the awards ceremony for Monday's 400 freestyle, a race in which she comfortably was ahead, only to be beaten by Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington by a fingertip (.07 of a second).

Hoff had a lead of 1.46 seconds with 50 meters to go.

"I was definitely shocked," she said. "I just didn't have it at the end."

The surprise in her first two races was not that Hoff had missed gold but that she was swimming slower than earlier this year.

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