By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 29. THE big news last week, when the psych sheets were unveiled for the U.S. Olympic Trials, revolved around which athletes were entered in which events. Among the notable news was Natalie Coughlin's decision, despite her American-record status, to not contest the 100 butterfly. Her absence, as she focuses on a variety of other events, has opened things up.
Over the past year, Christine Magnuson has emerged on the national scene as a top performer in the butterfly and freestyle. She continued that emergence in the prelims of the 100 fly, headlining the qualifiers for the evening semifinals. Magnuson jumped ahead in the final heat of 18 and never looked back in producing a personal-best showing of 57.84. That time ranks as the fifth-fastest in the world this year.
The second-best American in the 100 butterfly over the past several years, Rachel Komisarz opened her Trials in solid fashion. Komisarz, an Athens Olympian, was second to Magnuson in 58.44, a time that ranked third overall for the morning. Aside from Magnuson, the only swimmer to edge Komisarz in the morning was Elaine Breeden, as the Stanford standout was clocked in 58.03. For Breeden, the swim bodes well for her 200 fly, a strength in her arsenal.
Checking in with the fourth-swiftest time of the morning was Dana Vollmer, guaranteed to be in the mix for an Olympic bid tomorrow night. Vollmer covered her two laps in 58.46 and was followed in the qualifying by 200 backstroke world champ Margaret Hoelzer (58.67) and Mary DeScenza (58.93). Also reaching the semifinals were Brooke Bishop (59.08), Whitney Myers (59.13), Bridget O'Connor (59.22), Erin Reilly (59.34), Caitlin Andrew (59.38), Kim Vandenberg (59.57), Felicia Lee (59.65), Margaret Kelly (59.79), Morgan Scroggy (59.85) and Samantha Woodward (59.97).
By the time tonight's semifinals and tomorrow's final conclude, we'll have a better idea of where the United States stands in the event. For now, though, it's difficult to foresee an American woman contending for gold or silver, what with the excellence of Libby Lenton and Jessicah Schipper out of Australia.
One of the top storylines this week is Dara Torres' attempt to qualify for her fifth Olympic team, this time as a 41-year-old. Still, Torres isn't the oldest female in action. Susan von der Lippe, who won silver in the 200 breast as Susan Rapp at the 1984 Olympics, is now 42 and went 1:02.47 in the 100 fly. Before this week, Torres had held the record for the oldest Trials qualifier at 33 in 2000. This year, both Torres and von der Lippe are in their fourth decades, and are proving just how much of an impact Masters swimming can have on the sport.
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.