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World University Games Begin; US Men's 800 Free Relay Second to Italy -- August 23, 2001

BEIJING, CHINA, Aug. 23. IN Sydney at the 2000 Olympics, the USA's men's team started out with a disappointing silver medal in the 400m free relay. Thursday night, the Americans saw the same thing happen as they took second in the 800m free relay to an Italian team that hadn't won a relay medal since the first Universiade in 1959.

If Sydney is any indication, look for the team to rally around defeat and turn the momentum around. Despite disappointment with the color of the medal, the team did get the first medal for all of the American squads at the 2001 World University Games. The team of Clay Kirkland (1:51.94), Scott Vonschoff (1:50.83), Mark Warkentin (1:51.23) and Dan Ketchum (1:49.62) posted a 7:23.62, just edging France by 9-hundredths of a second. Italy breezed to victory in
7:20.34.

"We're happy we won a silver," said Vonschoff, "but we came here to win gold. Hopefully we'll win the next relay."

For the women, Rachel Komisarz finished fifth in the 800m free in 8:43.86 (splits below), with Jessica Foschi placing seventh in 8:48.70.

Yana Klochkova, coming off her medal-winning performance at the 2001 World Swimming Championships last month, claimed the first gold of the swimming competition in 8:36.37. The Czech Republic's Jana Pechanova was second in 8:338.50, just touching out Japan's Sachiko Yamada (8:38.59).

In semi-final action, Peter Marshall continued his dominance of the 100m backstroke, finishing first in 55.40 (26.57 split), a new Universiade record. Todd Smolinski also advanced to the finals, posting the sixth-fastest time of 56.43 (27.10). The finals are set for Friday night. Many of the Americans have not competed in the prelims-semis-finals format before, Smolinski being one of them.

"I like [the format] so far," said Smolinski. "I like it that we get three swims instead of two. I felt okay tonight, but I didn't feel like I should have felt. I'm going to stay off my legs tomorrow, prepare mentally and stay long in the water, and I think I should be okay for finals."

Andy Haidinyak also kept his swimming alive with an eighth-place swim in the 50m fly. Haidinyak's time of 24.70 was a personal best for the Texan. Brendan Coyne missed the cut by .07, posting a 24.77, placing him tenth. Coyne's time was also a personal best.

In the men's 200m breaststroke, 2000 Olympic bronze medal-winner Davide Rummolo of Italy posted the top time of 2:15.88. For the U.S., David Denniston and Gary Marshall finished ninth and tenth, just out of finals. Denniston posted a 2:17.79 (30.57, 1:05.57, 1:41.94) with Marshall touching in 2:17.85 (31.34, 1:05.62, 1:41.34).

For the women, Monica Williams posted a personal best 56.86 (28.08) in the 100m free to advance to the finals in the fourth position. Jennifer Crisman also advanced, swimming a 56.90 (27.32), good enough for eighth.

Day two features the finals for the women's 100m free and 800m free relay, with men's finals being the 100m back, 50m fly, 200m breast and 800m free.


RESULTS

Women's 800m Free
1. Yana Klochkova (UKR) 8:36.27
2. Jana Pechanova (CZE) 8:38.50
3. Sachiko Yamada (JPN) 8:38.59

Men's 4 x 200m Free Relay
1. ITALY 7:20.34
(BECCARI, SELLERI, PELLICCIARI, CAPPELLAZZO) 7:20.34
2. USA 7:23.62
(KIRKLAND, VONSCHOFF, WARKENTIN, KETCHUM)
3. FRANCE 7:23.71
(BARNIER, KINTZ, BECQUET, VIART)


Komisarz 800m free splits:
1:02.37, 2:07.46, 3:12.74, 4:19.17,
5:25.43, 6:31.99, 7:38.46

Foschi 800m free splits:
1:02.59, 2:07.78, 3:13.43, 4:20.16,
5:27.34, 6:35.08, 7:43.30


Diving
The U.S. divers’ dreams of capturing a medal or two during the first day of competition at Tsinghua University did not become reality although there were early indications that one or two members of Team USA might make it to the podium on Thursday at the World University Games diving venue.

On the women’s side, Rachel Kunkel (Brigham Young University/West Valley City, Utah) seemed poised to capture a medal in the women’s one-meter springboard competition, but the third of her five dives in the event final proved disastrous. Calling it a "big miss," team leader Hongping Li (Cerritos, California) added, "You can have six or six and a half, but not four and a half." Kunkel, who was in first place after two finals’ dives, dropped to sixth and could only gain one spot in each of the two subsequent rounds, finishing fourth overall. (247.29).

China’s Jingjing Guo and Ronguian Li took gold and silver with 309.51 and 285.51, respectively, with Natalia Oumyskova of Russia earning the bronze (281.16).

Kunkel had finished the preliminary rounds on the one-meter in third place (269.76), while U.S. teammate Danielle Stramandi (Princeton University/Lawrenceville, New Jersey) ended in 23rd (176.61). In the semi-finals, Kunkel was second in her group of six, trailing only eventual gold medalist Guo 279.48 to 265.2.

The results were no better for the U.S. men. Tom Davidson (Indiana University/Ambler, Pennsylvania), who finished fourth in the 30-man one-meter preliminaries with 358.32, got off to a slow start in the evening session. In sixth place following the first two rounds of his group’s semi-final, he rallied to finish third and qualify for the final.

Teammate Justin Dumais (University of Texas/Ventura, California), who was ninth (337.02) during the afternoon’s preliminary session, withdrew from the event before the evening’s action. By competing in Thursday’s preliminaries, Dumais, who had not been active recently on the one-meter springboard, helped earn valuable points for the USA in the team standings, which are compiled based on preliminary results.

Davidson, who holds the U.S. National Indoor title for the one-meter springboard, was not up to par for the finals and like his female counterpart had one disastrous dive in the closing rounds. Add to that an extremely strong performance by the host nation’s athletes and factor in their choice of dives with a high degree on difficulty (all 3.0 or greater), and it’s easy to see why China’s Feng Wang and Tianling Wang took home the gold and silver, respectively, while Imre Lengyel of Hungary won the bronze and Davidson finished sixth.

Looking back at the day’s competition, which might have been the USA’s best chance for a diving medal, Li commented, "We just let it slip away."

Women’s diving action resumes at 13:00 Friday, August 24, with the preliminaries of the platform event. Competing for the USA will be Stramandi and Nicci Fusaro (University of Southern California/Los Angeles, California). The men return to competition at noon on Saturday, August 25, with the three-meter springboard preliminaries. All events are at the diving pool of Tsinghua University.