By John Lohn
PHILADELPHIA, Penn., May 27. CONTINUING with our World Championships preview package, it’s time for a look at Katie Hoff, the latest standout from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Hoff will be featured in the July issue of Swimming World Magazine.
The Wonder Kid
What can’t she do? There actually might not be an answer to that question, considering the wealth of talent possessed by the 15-year-old. For a little more than a year, Katie Hoff has continually raised her international profile, mainly as an individual medley performer. Now, she’s on the cusp of identifying herself as the world’s best all-around swimmer.
When the World Championships get rolling in Montreal, Hoff’s name will be heard often. She’s among the leading contenders in both I.M. events, and the World Champs might be the opportunity for Hoff to enjoy her greatest accomplishments. We’re talking double-gold and world-record pursuits, along with American-relay duty.
Since 1997, Wu Yanyan’s 200 individual medley record of 2:09.72 has gone unchallenged, largely due to its drug-tainted nature. But, if anyone has the ability to go under 2:10, it’s Hoff. At the U.S. World Champs Trials, she was clocked in an American record of 2:11.24. While a significant drop remains necessary, Hoff could be capable.
Without a weak stroke in her arsenal, Hoff is also in position to make a run for gold in the 400 I.M., regardless if Yana Klochkova is in the race. With Kaitlin Sandeno also in the mix, the distance medley could be a highlight event in Montreal.
Hoff, though, is hardly limited to the individual medley events. Since the Olympic Trials last summer, she’s built a reputation in other disciplines. At the World Trials, Hoff claimed victory in the 200 freestyle and also placed second in the 200 backstroke, though she’s opted out of that event for Worlds. Had she contested either butterfly, Hoff would have been a contender. She has it all.
Although Hoff went 1:59.56 in the 200 free at Trials, that time will not hold up as an impact showing on the international. But, considering her learning curve, there’s no reason to doubt Hoff’s ability to be in the 1:58-range by July. Should that development unfold, she will find herself in the vicinity of the medal podium.
Some individuals in the sport have dubbed her the next coming of Tracy Caulkins, the greatest female swimmer in American history. Hoff certainly has a long road to travel to legitimize the comparison, but this much is true: The talent is there.
NEXT WEEK: The influence of Pieter van den Hoogenband’s withdrawal from the World Championships.