FLASH! Amanda Beard Turns Pro, Gives Up College Eligibility

By Phillip Whitten

TUCSON, Arizona. May 4. IN a move that caught many by surprise, University of Arizona sophomore Amanda Beard, 19, decided this afternoon to give up her two remaining years of NCAA eligibility and turn pro. The two-time Olympian signed a contract with Premier Management Group (PMG), headed by Evan Morgenstein.

Her decision deals a crushing blow to the NCAA Championship hopes of the Arizona Wildcats. Beard is the second high-profile female swimmer the 'Cats have lost to the burgeoning pro ranks in less than a year.
Last fall, incoming freshman Diana Munz decided, just as school was beginning, that she would turn pro and continue to train with the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins in suburban Cleveland.

Only two weeks ago, PMG signed the leading college senior, Olympic champion Misty Hyman. Other recent PMG signings include Chris Thompson, American record-holder in the men's 1500m freestyle and 1650 yard freestyle, and Haley Cope, American record-holder in the women's 50m (short course) backstroke.

Competing at the 1996 Olympics as a 14 year-old, Beard won silver medals behind South Africa's Penny Heyns in both the 100 and 200m breaststroke, and gold in the 400m medley relay. After several years in which she struggled to adapt her stroke to her changing body, Beard qualified for the 2000 US Olympic team and wound up winning bronze in the 200m breaststroke in a lifetime best time.

At the 2000 NCAA Championships, she finished second behind Georgia's Kristy Kowal in both the 100 and 200m (short course) breaststroke. This year, she came storming from behind to nip Stanford frosh Tara Kirk and win the 200 yard breaststroke.

Beard placed second in the 200m breast (2:27.90) at the USA Swimming National Championships just over a month ago, earning herself a trip to the World Championships in Japan in July. But she declined the trip, saying she preferred to take the summer off from competition.

Beard plans to take the fall semester off from her classes at the University of Arizona before resuming her college education next Spring.

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