Concerns on Hoff's times fair, but 2 medals not bad

From Beijing To Baltimore

Beijing 2008

August 14, 2008|By Rick Maese and Kevin Van Valkenburg

The Sun's Olympic correspondents, Rick Maese and Kevin Van Valkenburg, are blogging back and forth to each other at baltimoresun.com/olympicsblog . An excerpt:

Let's get this straight: Katie Hoff's times here are not bad. Let's get this straight, too: They aren't as good as many anticipated. I have a hard time blaming Hoff. Take Tuesday's first race, for example. She set the American record in the 200-meter free, swam the fastest she'd ever swam in the race, and finished fourth. Is that failure?

Probably not. But it wasn't until later in the night that many around the Water Cube began shaking their heads and really wondering. In the 200 individual medley, about 70 minutes later, Hoff swam well slower than her time at trials and much slower than her time at most recent meets. Was it because doubles are too hard? Because two races in one night was too much? Because five individual events and one relay was simply more than she was ready for?

Kevin, I'm going to wait a couple of more days to pass judgment. Frankly, she should be competitive in this relay and is among the favorites in the 800 free. But the questions after yesterday's double were fair, I think.

We were on deadline, but Phil Hersh, Mr. Olympics for the Chicago Tribune, valiantly pinch hit for The Sun yesterday morning and shared his tape recorder. Here's what Hoff's coach, Paul Yetter, had to say:

"I think right now she's capable of doing anything she wants. Right now, she's having a good meet. She's won two medals and set an American record. I remember when Matt Biondi was supposed to win seven golds and he got a bronze in his first race and everyone asked, 'Are you disappointed?' He said, 'No, I just want to win a gold medal.' You kind of have to look at it like that."

He was asked whether they're disappointed.

"Two medals is a good showing for anybody," Yetter said. "There's a lot of people walking around this pool deck with no medals. And Katie's got two medals. She's got a relay tomorrow and an 800 free coming up, which could be awesome. Part of the thing with Katie is she has a lot of chances to do well, and that's one of the reasons she entered such a big program."

About the possibility of peaking too soon...

"Well, certainly if you're just trying to peak in one event, it's one thing. But she did hit her peak yesterday in the 200 freestyle. It's the fastest she's ever gone, and she did set an American record."

Upon being told that Hoff has failed to post personal highs in three of four events thus far:

"In the 200 IM, she had to take a chance and get out there. Otherwise, you risk getting drowned in waves. Sometimes when you take a chance, that's what happens. She's less than a second off her time, but she's out way faster, she's out six-tenths faster than when she set her American record. At some point, you have to take a chance to win or to medal. If that's going to be really difficult to do - it's going to take a tall order - you've got to serve it up."

Rick Maese

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