by Phillip Whitten
San Antonio, TX – Brash 15-year-old Megann Quann, of Puyallup (Wash.) Swim Club made good on her promise to break the American record in the 100m breaststroke, Sabir Muhammad took a major step to become the first African-American Olympian in swimming, and Dara Torres continued her magical comeback as she attempts to become the first American women to swim on four Olympic teams.
These were the highlights of the first day of competition at the three-day US Open Swimming Championships, which are being held in the state-of-the-art natatorium at Palo Alto College in San Antonio. The meet, the last major competition of the century, has attracted some 1,100 swimmers, including most of the medal favorites for next year’s Olympic Games in Sydney.
Quann, who had boasted that she planned to break the American record of 1:08.09 set by Amanda Beard in winning the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was true to her word, immediately taking the lead and lengthening it with every stroke. The time makes Quann the fourth fastest woman ever in the event. Tonight she predicted she would break the world record in winning gold in Sydney next year.
Stanford grad Sabir Muhammad, who left the US Resident National Team in Colorado Springs last summer to train in Hawaii, found the warmer climate agrees with him. Representing Baywatch-Hawaii, Muhammad edged Holland’s Pieter van den Hoogenband 22.32 to 22.35 in the men’s 50m freestyle, setting a meet record. The field included Australian Michael Klim, a 1998 bronze medalist in this event.
Dara Torres surprised a very strong field to win the women’s 50m freestyle in a meet record 25.29, a meet record and personal lifetime best. Torres, 32, retired after the 1992 Olympics and has only been training for 17 weeks. Second place went to her training partner, Jenny Thompson (25.65), while another 32-year-old on the comeback trail, Angel Martino, was a strong third (25.75). American record-holder and defending Olympic champion, Amy Van Dyken was fifth.
The women’s 400m freestyle saw Olympic and world 800m chmpion, Brooke Bennett, come from behind to overtake Costa Rica’s Claudia Poll at the 250m mark. In the final 100 meters, Janelle Atkinson of Jamaica, a senior at the Bolles School in Florida, passed Poll as well.
In the 200m individual medley, Jenny Thompson led through the first 175 meters before Slovakia’s Martina Moravcova and American Cristina Teuscher swept by her. Moravcova, who has been training only three months after a thyroid operation, said she was very pleased with her progress.
Lenny Krayzelburg, the world record-holder, easily won the men’s 200m backstroke in 1:57.74, a meet record and two seconds ahead of 16-year-old Aaron Peirsol and Croatia’s Gordan Kozulj, a University of California grad.
The men’s 400m free provided graphic evidence was the Australian’s dominate the men’s middle-distance and distance freestyle events. In the absence of 17-year-old Ian Thorpe, Australia’s Grant Hackett took an immediate lead and buried the field in the first haf of the race. He touched home in 3:49.50, a meet record, winning by five seconds. Australia’s Kieren Perkins, attempting a comeback for his third Olympiad, was a badly beaten seventh.
Canadians won two events. Kelly Stefanyshyn came from behind to win the women’s 200m backstroke, while Morgan Knabe led all the way to nab the men’s 100m breaststroke.