By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. ONE of the athletes was trying to rebound from a poor swim in the semifinal round. The other was trying to earn a return trip to the Olympics after an eight-year wait. Together, Jessica Hardy and Megan Jendrick will lead the American contingent in the 100 breaststroke in Beijing.
Hardy, who was in the 1:08-range in the semifinals, returned to form when it mattered most and defeated her competition by registering a time of 1:06.87 while swimming out of Lane Two. Hardy, as is her reputation, took the race out fast, splitting 30.53 at the 50-meter mark. On the way home, she had enough to get to the wall first.
"Four years of emotion right here," Hardy said. "The race was totally instinctual. Flying high early is my race strategy."
As for Jendrick, the 2000 Olympic champion in Sydney, her second-place finish added to what is a great story in the sport. Although she missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Team, Jendrick continued to push ahead, working hard each day with the knowledge that her dedication would pay. That certainly was the case Tuesday night.
On the outside looking during the last lap, Jendrick gained ground with every stroke and hit the wall in 1:07.50, edging Tara Kirk (1:07.51) by the smallest of margins. Jendrick, though, is far from done this week as her attention will now turn to the 200 breast, where she shared the silver medal at last year's World Championships.
Taking fourth in what was a bit of a surprise was Rebecca Soni, the top qualifier heading into the final. Soni was unable to match her effort of 1:06.87 from a day earlier and she'll now have to focus on qualifying in the 200 breast, her better event. The fifth through eighth positions went to Annie Chandler (1:08.02), Amanda Beard (1:08.80), Lindsay Payne (1:08.89) and Elizabeth Tinnon (1:09.16).
"I saw people in front of me with 50 left and I thought, `Go faster,'" Jendrick said.
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
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