Beth Botsford and Amanda Beard: ’96 Olympic Stars Struggle to Make 2000 Team

By Phillip Whitten

INDIANAPOLIS, August 14. Beth Botsford and Amanda Beard: Four short years they were 15 and just 14, respectively, and the sweethearts of the successful US Olympic team.

Botsford was the upset winner of the 100 backstroke in Atlanta and led off the victorious US medley relay team. Two gold medals at age 15!

Beard won silver in both breaststrokes behind South Africa's Penny Heyns, then struck gold in the medley relay. A gold and two silver medals at age 14!

In the ensuing years, the two young women grew up, struggled to adjust their strokes to their changing bodies, and became teammates again at the University of Arizona. This year, at the NCAAs, Botsford set an American record in the short course 200 meter backstroke, while Beard was second in the 200 breast behind Kristy Kowal in a very close race.

Here in Indianapolis, site of their Trials success four years ago, the two young women have struggled. Botsford, who severely sprained an ankle two weeks ago, finished eighth in the 100 backstroke. Beard matched Botsford's performance with an eighth in the 100 breast.

Today, Botsford qualified for the semifinal in the 200 back, which will be swum tonight. Beard placed third in the 200 breast in last night's semis, and is looking to make the 2000 Team tonight.

To make the team, Beard will have to beat (among others) Kristy Kowal or Megan Quann, the American record holder in the 100 meters who twice swam personal bests in the prelims and semis of the 200 yesterday.

Beard's coach, Dave Salo, told me he thought his swimmer had a very good chance to become a two-time Olympian tonight. "I think it will take a 2:27-low or 2:26-high, and I think Amanda is capable of doing that tonight."

Salo's swimmers are swimming magnificently here in Indy and, in the past, he's proved to be an accurate prognosticator. Will he prove correct again?

In less than two hours, we'll know the answer.

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