LOS ANGELES, July 18. THE Janet Evans Invitational, which began life some three decades ago as the Los Angeles Invitational, opens today at 5 pm Pacific Daylight Time in the McDonald's Olympic Swim Stadium on the campus of USC.
Evans, of course, is the Seoul and Barcelona Olympian who won four golds and still holds world records in the 400-800-1500 meter frees and American standards in the 500-1000-1650 yard frees.
She prepped for Barcelona under coach Mark Schubert, then coaching in Texas but currently the Trojan head man, and went on to win the 400 free there.
She made her biggest splash four years earlier when she won the 400-800 frees and 400 IM at Seoul and is one of only two female U.S. Olympic swimmers to win three individual golds at a single Olympics. The other, of course, is Debbie Meyer in 1968.
After opening today with the women's and men's 800 frees, the meet continues through Sunday. In all likelihood the outstanding — or at least most
intriguing — matchup will be in the men's 200 back where current world record-holder Aaron Peirol faces the previous world record-holder and Olympic champ, former Trojan great Lenny Krayzelburg.
Those two won't be the only current or former wr-holders swimming, however, as North Baltimore Aquatics Club's Michael Phelps — king of the 200 fly and
defending World Champion — will be making his Southern California debut. Phelps has been training at the high-altitude Olympic Training Center in
Colorado Springs the last three weeks.
Phelps, who turned 17 June 30 (just in time to start putting paid to all those 17-18 NAG records!) and hasn't competed in Southern California since childhood, says he's never raced at sea level after having trained at altitude, a practice common among elite runners.
"They say you go faster," he said. "It will be interesting to see what happens."
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Krayzelburg has been hors de combat for pretty much the last two years and underwent shoulder surgery last September.
But he's been back in the water since spring, competed in a few races at the Mare Nostrum series in Europe last month, and is eager to prove that young Master Aaron is not the new king of the backstroke, not by a longshot, despite his world record and his World Championship gold from last summer at Fukuoka.
Krayzelburg held off Peirsol in the last contest between the two at Sydney, edging him for the gold with an Olympic record 1:56.76 to the latter's 1:57.35.
In late March of this year, Peirsol finally broke Krayzelburg's world record of 1:55.87 that he swam at the '99 Pan-Pacs in the Sydney Olympic Pool. Peirsol did his record 1:55.15 during the Phillips 66 Nationals at Minneapolis.
Two years ago, at June's Mission Viejo Meet of Champions, Krayzelburg laid down the gauntlet with a meet record and then world's fastest time of 1:58.75.
However, at the Evans meet less than a month later, it was NOVA standout Peirol taking the top spot with his then pr of 1:59.01 (and still meet record) to Krayzelburg's 1:59.34.
Who'll win in '02?
"I'm pretty excited for the race," Krayzelburg said.
"It's about time for me to get back into racing."
Peirsol said he is in the best shape of the summer going into the meet.
"I want to try to see where I stand and put across some good times to get ready for Nationals," he said.
"It's going to be awesome racing against Lenny. The pool is his home turf, and he knows it better than anyone else."
Peirsol's coach, NOVA's Dave Salo, said Peirsol has not swum the 200 back since breaking the world record. He was scheduled to do so at last month's
Mission meet but his high school graduation was the previous evening so he slept in that morning and missed the prelims.
"Aaron always enjoys racing it though, and he has a tremendous respect for Krayzelburg," added Salo.
Schubert, who coaches Krayzelburg, said the 200 back is going to include a tremendous field, with his star pupil, Peirsol plus Stanford's Randall Bal and Peter Marshall expected to swim too.
"It's going to make the backstroke one of the more of the exciting races," he said.
Distance swimmers Chris Thompson and Erik Vendt were expected to battle for distance supremacy in both the 800 and 1500 frees. That was the plan but Vendt has scratched from today's 800 because of a conflict with a summer class he's taking at USC, where'll be a senior this fall.
Other U.S. Olympians scheduled to swim include Amanda Beard, Lindsay Benko, Chad Carvin, Klete Keller, Tom Wilkens, Staciana Stitts, Scott Tucker and Gabrielle Rose.
Also on hand will be Santa Barbara distance ace Adrienne Binder, Auburn's American/NCAA record-holder Maggie Bowen andformer War Eagle sprint star
Greg Busse, Cal's triple NCAA champ/record-setter Natalie Coughlin, her ex-Cal teammate Haley Cope, Stanfords's double American record-holder Tara Kirk plus NOVA's budding backstroke star Diana McManus.
– Bill Bell