By Phillip Whitten
DALLAS, September 26. IN a surprise move, Swiss distance star Flavia Rigamonti, 22, a likely medal contender at the 2004 Athens Olympics, has withdrawn from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas and will return to Switzerland to train, according to the Zuricher Zeitung.
The reason: love.
Rigamonti, the anchor of Coach Steve Collins' powerful SMU Mustangs, is the double defending NCAA champion in the 500 and 1650 yard freestyle and was favored to repeat. Last season, she swam the second fastest 1650 in history, just missing Janet Evans' long-standing record.
In 2001, Rigamonti placed second in the 1500 meters at the World Championships in Fukuoka, and she was expected to medal in both the 800 and 1500 in Barcelona this summer, but a serious bicycle accident forced her to withdraw from the meet.
Rigamonti's decision to leave SMU astonished Coach Collins, not to mention the staid Swiss swimming officials.
Rigamonti reportedly will rejoin the Atlantide Agno team, where she will prepare for Athens. Previously, the 22 year-old distance ace had said she did not want to train with Atlantide, however she changed her mind when Italian Nicola Agosti, her boyfriend, was named coach.
Rigamonti and Agosti reportedly will meet with Swiss Swimming Executive Director Bernhard Buehler next week to develop an optimal training plan for Rigamonti, culminating in an Olympic medal.