Two more wins, two American records for Hoff on fourth day of Trials
OMAHA, Neb. - Katie Hoff of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club won two more events and set two American records Wednesday at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Swimming, finishing first in the women's 200m free (1:55.88) and 200m IM (2:09.71). Club Wolverine's Michael Phelps also brought home a win in the 200m butterfly with a U.S. Open record of 1:52.20.
The wins marked the third and fourth of the meet for Hoff, who also won the women's 400m IM and 400m free earlier in the week. The 200m butterfly was Phelps' third win after taking the 400m IM and 200m free.
Hoff came out on top of two close races Wednesday, winning the 200m free by just four-hundredths of a second and the 200m IM by about six-tenths.
In what was perhaps the marquee match-up of the evening, Natalie Coughlin of Cal Aquatics jumped out ahead of the field in the 200m IM, touching at the 50- and 100-meter marks .76 seconds ahead of world record pace. Hoff and King Aquatic Club's Ariana Kukors drew even with Coughlin at the last wall, and all three swimmers dashed for home.
Hoff pulled ahead with about 15 meters to go. Coughlin finished second in 2:10.32, while Kukors was third in 2:10.40.
"In that race, it wasn't just Natalie," Hoff said. "I could have had a great race here tonight and ended up third. So I was nervous, but tried to relax and have fun with it as well."
In the women's 200m free, Hoff led the field from start to finish, but had to hold off a charging Allison Schmitt of Club Wolverine in the final 20 meters of the race. Schmitt touched in 1:55.92, which was also under Hoff's previous American record of 1:56.08.
Julia Smit of Stanford Swimming finished third in 1:56.73, while Caroline Burckle of Lakeside Swim Team (1:57.93), Kim Vandenberg of Team Bruin (1:58.02) and Christine Marshall of Aggie Swim Club (1:58.16) rounded out the top six.
"I think it's every girl's dream to make the Olympics," Burckle said. "When I turned around and saw the scoreboard, it was like a dream come true. It's amazing."
Hoff broke the meet record in both the 200m free and 200m IM every time she hit the water in the prelim, semifinal and final rounds.
"I think I'm in good shape," Hoff said afterwards. "We train to swim a lot of events in one night, and I'm glad my training pulled through."
As expected, Phelps was in control of the men's 200m fly from the start and cruised to the win with the fastest time in the world this year and the second-fastest performance of all time. He was shadowed closely by Club Wolverine teammate Davis Tarwater and Athens Bulldog Swim Club's Gil Stovall for much of the race, but it was Stovall who surged ahead of Tarwater with about 35 meters to go and touched second in 1:53.86.
"I don't think I took the race out like I should have," Phelps said. "I think I was maybe too relaxed in the first 50, which for me never happens. That's something to change in the next month, and I definitely won't make that mistake again."
Stovall's time makes him the second-fastest swimmer of all time in this event behind Phelps.
"I'm happy this event is getting faster," Phelps said. "And I'm happy the two fastest in the world are Americans."
The first-place finishers in the finals of the men's 200m fly and women's 200m IM - along with the top four finishers in the women's 200m free - automatically qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Wednesday. The second-place finishers in the men's 200m fly and women's 200m IM - along with the fifth- and sixth-place finishers in the women's 200m free - will likely be named to the team later in the week, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
In semifinals, Jason Lezak set the American record in the 100m free with a time of 47.58. His time was just eight-hundredths of a second off the world record held by Alain Bernard and was the third-fastest performance of all time.
It was the second American record Lezak set in this event Wednesday. He set the first in prelims with a time of 48.15, only to have it broken in the very next heat by Garrett Weber-Gale in 47.78. Lezak held the American record in the 100m free coming into this meet with a time of 48.17.
"I just wanted to make a statement that I had a lot more in me," Lezak said. "I put it all out there tonight. I came in here trying to do my best time, and I did that twice."
Stanford Swimming's Elaine Breeden broke the 24-yearold meet record in the semifinals of the women's 200m butterfly, turning in a time of 2:07.33. The old mark was held by butterfly legend Mary T. Meagher at 2:07.53.
Breeden's time Wednesday was about seven-tenths of a second ahead of the rest of the field, but qualifiers 2-5 are separated by less than a second heading into tomorrow night's finals.
American record-holder Brendan Hansen of Longhorn Aquatics will be going for his second win of the week Thursday night, in the 200m breaststroke. He and Longhorn teammate Eric Shanteau are the top two seeds after tonight's semifinals, with times of 2:09.60 and 2:10.24. Scott Usher of Boilermaker Aquatics, a Nebraska native and 2004 Olympic qualifier in this event, qualified as the fifth seed (2:11.63).
Tomorrow's events include prelims and semifinals of the women's 100m free, men's 200m back, women's 200m breast and men's 200m IM. Finals will be conducted in the men's 200m breast, women's 200m fly and men's 100m free.