By John Lohn
MONTREAL, Canada, July 24. LAST summer, Katie Hoff ventured to Athens without any international experience. The result was a flameout in the 400 individual medley, but an appearance in the finals of the 200 I.M. Obviously, the tutorial from the Olympic Games has paid dividends for the 16-year-old from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
Looking every bit a veteran of international competition, Hoff cruised to the top seed for Monday night’s finals of the 200 I.M. Scheduled to swim three individual events this week, Hoff unloaded a 2:11.71 performance in winning her semifinal. Sitting third after the opening leg of butterfly, Hoff eased into the lead during the backstroke and never relinquished control. She was on pace for a 2:10-esque clocking heading into the freestyle, but shut it down.
There’s a distinct possibility that Hoff will become the first American woman to move into the 2:10s and an outside chance that she could erase the world record of 2:09.72, set in 1997 by China’s Wu Yanyan. The championship record of 2:10.75, set by Yana Klochkova in 2003, is definitely in the scope. Hoff is just waiting to fire.
Kirsty Coventry, the bronze medalist in the event from Athens, was the second-fastest qualifier, going 2:13.40 and was followed by Australia’s Lara Carroll (2:13.68) and Brooke Hanson (2:13.83). Poland’s Katarzyna Baranowska was fifth in 2:13.86. Rounding out the top eight were the United States’ Whitney Myers (2:14.03), Japan’s Maiko Fujino (2:15.13) and Hungary’s Zsuzsanna Jakabos (2:16.30).