Last weekend’s Phoenix Swimfest, one of the meets on the USS Grand Prix circuit, saw an exciting 200m medley relay “Battle of the Sexes” between an all-star women’s team and an over-40 men’s team composed of former Olympians.
The women’s team–originally meant to be the winning World Championship relay from Perth–consisted of Lea Maurer (backstroke), Penny Heyns (breaststroke), Misty Hyman (fly) and Jenny Thompson (free).
The women brought some impressive credentials to the starting blocks. Maurer was the 100 backstroke champ in Perth. Heyns, of South Africa, was a double gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics, setting the world record in the 100 breast. Hyman was the world’s top ranked 100 flyer in 1997, while Thompson won both the 100 free and 100 fly at Perth. Thompson vowed the women would kick some geriatric butt.
The geezer men’s team was composed of John Naber (backstroke), Don McKenzie (breast), Gary Hall Sr. (fly) and Jim Montgomery (free). Three of the four men have been active Masters swimmers; only Naber has remained dry since his glory days.
Like the ladies, the old guys also had a few credentials to their credit. Naber, 43, won four gold medals at the 1976 Olympics, setting world records in the 100m and 200m back. McKenzie, 51, won double gold at the ’68 Games, in the 100m breast and 400m medley relay. Former world record-holder Hall, 47, father of Gary Hall, Jr., won an Olympic medal in three different events, one each in the ’68, ’72 and ’76 Games. Montgomery, 43, won triple gold in Montreal in ’76, becoming the first man to break 50 seconds in the 100m free with his 49.99.
A pot of $1,000 was offered to the winners.
Maurer got the women off to a great start, splitting 29.64 to Naber’s 30.86, but McKenzie split an amazing 31.30 (faster than the first 50 of his 100 in 1968) to heyns’s 32.20 to close the gap to only 32-hundredths of a second. Hall and Hyman, both swimming before a wildly-cheering hometown Phoenix crowd waged a furious battle, with Hall taking the lead from the Stanford frosh. Hall split 26.96 to Hyman’s 27.33. Heading into the final lap, the men had the lead by a microscopic five-hundredths of a second.
Thompson stroked furiously to close the gap, but a fired-up Montgomery would not yield. The 1976 Olympian split 25.16, one-tenth faster than Thompson, as the jubilant men cruised to victory in 1:54.28 to the ladies’ 1:54.43.
Interestingly, as fast as the men’s Olympian team was, their time did not better the U.S. Masters or world record for men over 40. That record (1:53.77) is held by the team from Baylor Lone Star Masters.