USA World Championship Round-Up: Ervin Dismisses Thorpe, Quann Going for the WR; Benko Breaks Her Knee

(This is the July 19 issue of swiminfo's Daily Report on the US Swim Team competing at the 9th FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.)
FUKUOKA, Japan. July 19. Anthony Ervin dismissed Aussie superstar Ian Thorpe as a threat in the 100 free, Megan Quann announced she'll be shooting for Penny Heyns' world mark in the 1100 free, and Lindsay Benko is out of the meet due to a freak accident.

Ervin Dismisses The Thorpedo
University of California junior Anthony Ervin said today he is not concerned about Australian Ian Thorpe in the 100 meter freestyle. The two men rank first (48.98) and second (49.05), respectively, in the world coming into Fukuoka.

Ervin, the Olympic 50 meter freestyle co-champion, with Phoenix Swim Club teammate Gary hall, Jr., told reporters that, having raced against Russian Alexander Popov in Sydney, nothing that Thorpe could do when they meet next week in the 100 will faze him.

"I've had to race against the czar of sprinting, so I don't think Thorpe will do anything different," Ervin said.

Popov announced his withdrawal from the World Championships yesterday, news which disappointed Ervin. "I couldn't believe it. It's a real shame because he was the biggest competition based on his times this year," he said.

Popov, who won Olympic gold in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle in 1992 and 1996, had returned to top form in 2001 and set the fastest time in the world this year in the 50 of 21.91 in Monaco last month. However, the russian icon was forced to pull out of the world championships after contracting tonsilitis.

Despite the presence of triple Olympic gold medalist Thorpe and Dutch Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 100 meters, Ervin said victory would have a hollow ring without Popov on the starting blocks. "It doesn't mean much if you win just because there was nobody there who could have beaten me," he said.

Ervin predicted, however, that world records would tumble in Fukuoka's temporary fiber-glass pool. "A pool is only as fast as the people you bring to it and there are some fast guys here. I guarantee it will be a fast pool," he said.

Ervin was also eager to play down the rivalry between the United States team and the Australians, which was supposed to have reached a peak in Sydney. "There never really was a rivalry. It was media-created. There is rivalry in the sense that they are a swimming nation and they can compete with us, but it's not an emotional rivalry," he said. Get the full story by subscribing to Swimming World Magazine Swimming World and Jr. Swimmer Magazine Special Subscription Offer

Quann Shoots for Heyns' Mark
Seventeen year-old Megan Quann believes she will have to break one of swimming's toughest records to win her pet event at the World Championships, and that's exactly where the Puyallup, washington phenom has set her sights.

Quann is favored by most observers to win the women's 100 meter breaststroke final but said she expects she will have to swim the race of her life to do it. "I think it's going to take a world record," she said.
"It's going to take something special."

The world record for women's 100m breaststroke stands at 1:06.52 seconds and belongs to South Africa's Penny Heyns, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic champion, who retired after finishing third last year in Sydney.

Heyns broke the 1:07 barrier four times during five weeks in 1999 but no other swimmer has ever swum under 1:07. Quann swam an American record 1:07.05 to win gold at Sydney and said she has since become obsessed about the record.

While most of the world's top swimmers took long breaks after last year's Olympics, Quann kept on training and has started lifting weights to build up her legs. "Looking back on the Olympics, it seemed like other breaststrokers had a lot stronger kick and lower body strength than I did, so I've been working on trying to get my legs a lot stronger and co-ordinating that in the stroke."

Quann suffered a setback last year when her longtime coach left Washington to take a coaching position in Florida.

With Heyns now retired, Quann's biggest rivals are two other teens – China's Luo Xuejuan, 16, and Australia's Leisel Jones, 15 – and her US teammate, Kristy Kowal.

Luo has the world's fastest time this year, 1:07.42, but the Chinese newcomer is under suspicion after she refused a drug test at the FINA World Cup meet in Melbourne in January.

Jones, who hails from Brisbane, claimed the silver at the Olympics but is improving quickly. Kowal defeated Quann at the US Nationals last March.
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Benko Breaks Knee, She's Out of Championships

USA Swimming confirmed a report posted yesterday on swiminfo that US freestyle ace Lindsay Benko has pulled out of the Championships after breaking her kneecap in a bizarre training accident.

As reported here yesterday, Benko slipped on a pool ledge while training at a Fukuoka university pool on Tuesday, banging her left knee. The former USC star
waited more than a day before going to the hospital in the hope that she had suffered only a bruise, but x-rays revealed she had fractured the kneecap.

Benko won Olympic gold last year in Sydney as a member of the US women's 4×200 meter freestyle relay.
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