Women’s 400 Individual Medley Shaping Up to be Classic Battle in Omaha

SANTA CLARA. California, July 2. ALREADY expected to be one of the more intriguing events at next year's Olympic Trials in Omaha, the women's 400 individual medley seems to pick up more steam with each passing day. Sure, Katie Hoff is pretty much a lock to grab the No. 1 spot, but a wide-open battle should unfold for the second berth to Beijing.

There's no doubt that Hoff is the overwhelming favorite to win the 400 I.M., what with her status as two-time defending world champion and as the world-record holder. There isn't a female athlete in the world, at least currently, that can give Hoff a run in the distance medley. Still, a number of top-flight Americans can be found the in the discipline.

When the athletes gather in Omaha next summer, expect reigning Olympic silver medalist Kaitlin Sandeno to be a player in the event. After all, she's a two-time Olympian and her training with Club Wolverine should be a help. Meanwhile, Ariana Kukors was the second U.S. representative at the World Champs in Melbourne earlier this year and has been under the 4:40 barrier.

Three other names to look at for what is the decathlon of swimming are Julia Smit, Alicia Aemisegger and Caitlin Leverenz. A Stanford standout, Smit turned in an impressive performance over the weekend at the Santa Clara International Invitational, claiming victory in 4:40.33. As for Aemisegger, the Princeton University sophomore is trained by one of the all-time greats in molding medley swimmers, Dick Shoulberg of Germantown Academy. Look for Aemisegger to make a strong surge at a trip to China. In Leverenz, the U.S. has a rising force who is also expected to contend for an Olympic slot in the 200 breaststroke.

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