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EXCLUSIVE! NIKE Is Baaack, Signs Five Top Swimmers -- March 26, 2003 Kristy Kowal - at 2003 NCAA Championships

By Phillip Whitten

PORTLAND, Oregon, March 26. SPORTSWEAR giant NIKE has re-entered the competitive swimming market and, typically, is starting off with a splash.

Eddie Brown, who heads up the Portland-based company's swimming operations, told SwimInfo has signed several of the biggest names in U.S. Swimming, including Olympians Kristy Kowal, Jason Lezak, Rada Owen and Tommy Hannan. NIKE also signed breaststroker Dave Denniston, who had a superb 2002-03 World Cup tour, winning several events.

Kowal, a multi-national champion in the breaststroke, has won World Championship gold and silver and was 2000 Olympic silver medalist in the 200m breaststroke.

Lezak, ranked #1 in the world last year in the 50m free, has won Olympic and World Championship gold and silver in the relays.

Owen and Hannan were Olympic gold medalists in relays in Sydney, Owen in the women's 800m freestyle and Hannan in the men's 400m medley.

NIKE already had backstroke world champion Haley Cope under contract.

Kristy Kowal (she's the first "S") leads a group of Georgia fans in cheers at the 2003 Women's NCAA Championships.