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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: Americans's top rivials fail to advance

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posted on Aug, 19 2004 @ 09:23 AM
Two-time Olympic champion Alexander Popov of Russia and Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands, the 2000 bronze medalist, didn't make the 16-man evening semifinal.

Americans Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker moved on to the evening 100 butterfly semifinal, while Diana Munz and Kalyn Keller made the 800 freestyle final, set for Friday.

Van den Hoogenband, the 100 free gold medalist, was 17th in 22.56 - just three-hundredths of a second out of the last berth. Popov, 32, tied for 18th with a time of 22.58 seconds - well off the world record of 21.64 he set in June 2000.

Hall, who tied teammate Anthony Ervin for gold at the Sydney Games and finished second to Popov in 1996, was fastest in 22.04.

Frederick Bousquet of France was second in 22.24 and Bart Kizierowski of Poland was third in 22.26. Kizierowski trains with Hall in Berkeley, Calif.

Lezak of Irvine, Calif., was seventh in 22.33.

The results were as surprising as the 100 free, when Popov was eliminated in the semifinals, Lezak and Crocker were knocked out in the preliminaries, and Hall didn't qualify in the event at the U.S. trials.

Popov became the first man to win consecutive 50 freestyle Olympic titles, at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta four years later.

"We'll miss him," said Bob Bowman, a U.S. assistant and Phelps' coach. "He's such a great ambassador for this sport, but it's like a heavyweight boxer. They won't go out until they're knocked out. Maybe this is a sign it's time to move on."

Van den Hoogenband blamed his failure on the exciting aftermath of his victory in the 100 freestyle Wednesday night. He got about four hours' sleep, staring at the ceiling of his room before stepping out on the balcony to see the sights.

"It was such a big night for me," he said. "I am so very happy."

Van den Hoogenband could hardly make his way around the athletes' village, the bus and the pool without being stopped by admirers.

"When I went to the dining room, they were standing up and cheering for me," he said. "When I got on the bus, everyone was saying, "Yeah, Pieter.' Everywhere it was, 'Yeah, Pieter.' Finally, I was like, 'What am I doing today? Oh yeah, the 50."'

Van den Hoogenband was approached for autographs in the minutes before he walked on deck to race.

"When I got on the starting blocks, I was like, 'Focus, focus, focus,' but I couldn't," he said.

The 50 free will be Hall's only moment to shine in Athens.

He was miffed about being left off the 400 free relay team for Sunday's final. He didn't bother coming to the pool to see the Americans finish third. And he was told he won't be on the 400 medley relay team, either.

"He wasn't happy with that," U.S. men's coach Eddie Reese said. "You've got to prove it at this meet. What happened a year ago or four years ago doesn't matter."

Hall suggested the U.S. coaches were giving special treatment to Phelps by putting him on the 400 free relay, even though the 19-year-old from Baltimore didn't compete in the 100 free at the U.S. trials, which usually determines the pool of relay swimmers. Phelps' bid to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in one games was partially derailed by the relay's third-place finish.

"Gary and I are going to disagree," Reese said. "I tried to convince him that Michael was not here to win seven gold medals and I'm not here to help him."

In the men's 100 butterfly, Phelps took a back seat to Crocker, who set the world record at last month's U.S. trials. Crocker, of Portland, Maine, was fastest in 52.03 and Phelps was third in 52.35.

"I haven't been sleeping too well," said Phelps, who could still finish with eight medals. "This has been an emotionally and physically draining meet."

Andriy Serdinov of Ukraine was second in 52.05. Geoff Huegill of Australia, the 2000 bronze medalist, was fifth.

Munz, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Keller, of Phoenix, will try to extend America's dominance in the 800 freestyle. Munz was fourth-fastest in 8 minutes, 30.87 seconds; Keller was sixth in 8:32.61.

The United States has won the event in five straight Olympics, including titles in 1988 and 1992 by Janet Evans, whose 15-year-old world record still stands, and Brooke Bennett, who won in 1996 and 2000, but didn't make the team for Athens.

Laure Manaudou of France, who won the 400 freestyle in Athens, qualified first in 8:25.91 and Rebecca Cooke of Britain was second in 8:28.47.

In the women's 200 backstroke, Stanislava Komarova of Russia was fastest in 2:10.71. Reiko Nakamura of Japan was second in 2:11.14. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, silver medalist in the 100 back in Athens, was third in 2:12.49.

Margaret Hoelzer, of Huntsville, Ala., was fourth in 2:12.55. Kristen Caverly, of San Clemente, Calif., didn't advance after finishing 17th in 2:15.34 - missing the last semifinal spot by 0.31 seconds.


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