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Van Almsick to Skip the World Championships -- May 18, 2003

HAMBURG, Germany, May 18. FRANZISKA van Almsick, the 25 year-old world record-holder in the 200 meter freestyle has decided to pass on the World Championships in Barcelona in two months to focus her training on the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

"My only goal and my last in the sport is to win Olympic gold in Athens," van Almsick said during the German championships in Hamburg today.

Van Almsick's decision came one day after she won the German title for the 200 free in 1:59.35, almost three seconds slower than her global standard of 1:56.64.

"Going to the World Championships is no longer a motivation for me," she added.

Van Almsick, who burst onto the world stage as a 14 year-old prodigy at the 1992 Olympics, where she won a silver medal in the 200 free, followed with a world record in her favorite event at the 1994 World Championships in Rome. For the next eight years, however, she encountered one frustration after another, winning a silver medal in the 200 free at the 1996 Olympics but failing to medal in Sydney four years later. Last year, after changing coaches, she staged a remarkable comeback at the European Championships in Berlin, winning five gold medals and breaking her own, 8 year-old world record for the 200 meter freestyle.

"I did not even try to make her change her mind because her decision is quite clear," German head coach Ralf Beckmann said of van Almsick's decision to miss the Barcelona championships from July 13 to 27.

"If she doesn't want to go, then she would not be of any help for the team."