By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 5. WELL, Janet Evans' 19-year-old world record in the 800 freestyle has survived another major challenge. Nonetheless, Katie Hoff delivered another in what has been a long line of exceptional performances at the Qwest Center. As Hoff closed out her Trials program, she notched victory No. 5, matching what Michael Phelps did on the male side.
Starting to pull away around the halfway point of the race, Hoff established a meet record of 8:20.81 to claim triumph over two-time defending world champion Kate Ziegler (8:25.38). Evans' world record, on the books since 1989 and thought to be in jeopardy, remains at 8:16.22. Maybe it will go in Beijing. For now, there are other things to note.
Hoff's win in the 800 freestyle gave her three victories in the freestyle events this week, joining earlier decisions in the 200 and 400 freestyles. Hoff also won the 200 and 400 individual medley events and will swim a sixth event as part of the 800 freestyle relay. As much attention as Phelps will receive in Beijing, Hoff deserves equal billing.
Holding less than a second lead over Ziegler at the 400-meter mark, Hoff started to push the tempo and was more than a second ahead at the 500-meter juncture. By the 600, her edge had ballooned to nearly three seconds and her win was secured. Hoff and Ziegler could be the gold-silver performers next month.
"I would have liked a best time, but it can't be perfect," Hoff said. "This was my 14th race. Getting 36 hours (of rest) helped. I had no idea where I was in respect to (the record). My practice helps with this. Saturday mornings are the hardest workouts of my week and that's my ninth practice (of the week)."
Taking third place was Chloe Sutton, a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in the 10K Open-Water Event. Sutton was timed in 8:31.23. She was followed by Katie Carroll (8:31.47), Caroline Burckle (8:32.26), Kelsey Ditto (8:39.35), Laurabeth Guenther (8:41.25) and Leah Gingrich (8:42.10).
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.