U.S. Olympic Trials: Katie Hoff Builds Toward Third Event, Leads 200 Free Qualifying With Meet Record -- July 1, 2008

By John Lohn

OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. WHEN the United States arrives in Beijing, it will be the favorite for gold in the 800 freestyle relay. The process to figure out which individuals will compete on that relay began with the preliminaries of the 200 freestyle. One name missing was Natalie Coughlin, who opted to bypass the event and contest the 200 individual medley. Still, Coughlin is the likely choice to be the leadoff swimmer for the American squad.

Not surprisingly, American-record holder Katie Hoff led the morning qualifying, which featured all 16 semifinalists cracking the two-minute mark. To put that into perspective, only five of the finalists from the 2004 Trials managed to break two minutes. Hoff, racing the last of 14 heats, touched the wall in 1:57.72, good for a Trials record. She's already won the 400 individual medley and 200 freestyle.

Hoff's time beat out a long-standing meet record previously held by Nicole Haislett since 1992. Haislett touched in 1:58.64 to qualify for Barcelona.

Here is a look back to 1992 with our Swimming World Magazine report on Nicole Haislett's record swim. This article appeared in the April 1992 edition of the publication.

The third-place finisher in the 400 freestyle, Allison Schmitt qualified in the No. 2 position behind a time of 1:58.76. The 18-year-old is a rising star in the middle-distance freestyles and was followed into the semifinal round by Caroline Burckle (1:59.09), Julia Smit (1:59.18) and Christine Marshall (1:59.31). Burckle was fourth in the 400 freestyle.

Kara Lynn Joyce, a 2004 Olympian, grabbed the sixth spot for the semifinals, going 1:59.39 and Kim Vandenberg (1:59.41) and Erin Reilly (1:59.66) were right behind. Also advancing to the semifinals were Chelsea Nauta (1:59.73), Dana Vollmer (1:59.76), Kate Dwelley (1:59.79), Katie Riefenstahl (1:59.85), Lacey Nymeyer (1:59.85), Jessica Rodriquez (1:59.94), Katie Carroll (1:59.95) and Elizabeth Beisel (1:59.98).

"It's different walking in after not making the team," Vollmer said. "It definitely motivates me more, and it's like that extra gear just kicks in and makes it that much easier."

Full Results

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Reaction Time Comments

July 1, 2008 What happened to Coughlin? Why does Coughlin insist on not swimming events in which she would contend for the gold medal? No 200 free, no 100 fly, no 200 back.... let's not forget she held the AR in the 200 back despite having swum it only a few times in major LC competition. Yet she insists on swimming the 50 free, an event in which she might make the team, over the previously mentioned events. Why? Let's not forget that even if Coughlin qualifies in the 50 Free for the Olympics, barring a BIG time drop in an unforgiving event, she'll struggle to make finals, let alone medal! Her PR is about a second behind the WR.

These strange choices put the Olympic coaches in some awkward positions. Does Coughlin get a spot on the 800 Free relay? They'll have to guess as to how she'll perform in the 200 Free from her 100 Free time, and in the meantime, someone who made the team at Trials won't have a slot. Also, for the 400 Medley relay, if McGregory bests Coughlin in the sprint backstroke and/or Weir or someone else beats her in the 100 Free, does the AR holder in the 100 Fly swim the Butterfly leg, or does one of the women who actually qualified in the event at Trials get the call?

Perhaps I (and other swimming fans) have been spoiled by Phelps, Lochte and Hoff and their multi-event, multi-stroke schedules that they handle with ease, but I cannot help but wonder why in the world Coughlin swims the events she does. Does she hate Olympic medals?
Submitted by:
July 1, 2008 Maybe she's swimming the events she wants to swim. It's a concept, but it does happen.
Submitted by: robbertv
July 1, 2008 I think you've hit the nail on the head. Phelps has a superhuman ability to get rid of lactic acid from his system. Hoff is a natural distance swimmer. Not sure how well Lochte will do in a major multi-event program. Natalie is incredibly talented. She obviously feels her 100 Back is her baby. Hence why not the 200 free. She certainly has a shot in the 200 IM but if she swam the 200 free, she would have the 100 Back finals, 200 free semi's and 200 IM semis on the same night. By dropping the 200 free she has the longest possible time between her events. I would love to have seen her swim the 100 fly and I think an argument can be made that she could have fit it in without affecting the 100 Back. She obviously felt differently. As for the 50, I think that if it were anywhere else in the program, she probably wouldn't swim it. But its at the end after she's swam all her main events. So, why not? There were the same questions in 2004 when she left some of her American record events off the schedule. She commented that she wants to focus on only a few events. I believe that is the case now. Hence she picked the events that fit well into her schedule.
Submitted by: teamwiess
July 1, 2008 Well put. She is an Olympic champion, and a world record holder. Good on her for swimming what she wants to without scrutiny - after all, the medals would be hers before they were "American" medals.
Submitted by: bt22
July 1, 2008 As teamwiess implied, Coughlin lacks, somewhat, the natural endurance of Phelps and Hoff, and also gets a big psychological boost from limiting her schedule and swimming events she loves, especially relays and the 100 free/back. Remember, this is a swimmer who considered retiring permanently after 2000 Trials, following injury and burnout. She wins in part by being the consummate technician and most likely her technique suffers when her endurance fails. My guess is that her priorities are the relays and the 100 back/free, and she faces serious challenges in all of them, so likely picked her schedule to optimize her chances in those. As for the 800 free relay, I"m sure the coaches will make the right decision. She's in better shape and swimming faster than last year when she led off the relay with a 1:56.4, so unless 4 other swimmers can at least beat that time, she deserves the spot. By the way, I understood Coughlin's mindset much better after I read the authorized biography on her, "Golden Girl", she's very interesting in her approach to swimming and life.
Submitted by: liquidassets
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