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Former Seminole Stephen Parry Wins Bronze For Great Britain in 200 Fly  -- August 19, 2004

ATHENS, Greece. August 18. TWENTY–FOUR hours prior to his race in the finals of the 200-meter butterfly, former Florida State University swimmer Stephen Parry was glad just to have a chance at a medal. Now he has forever put his name down in the annals of Olympic history as he captured the bronze medal on Tuesday (August 17).

Florida State reports interesting insights about its former star who became the first swimmer with Florida State ties to win an Olympic medal, coming alongside all-time great American diving star Phil Boggs who won a gold on the three-meter springboard.

After beating American Michael Phelps in the semifinals with a British record of 1:55.57, he reset the mark by five one-hundredths of second at 1:55.52. Phelps won his second gold medal of the Games with an Olympic record time of 1:54.04. Japan’s Takashi Yamamoto won the silver with at time of 1:54.56.

"That’s just brilliant. It’s what the Olympic Games is all about,” Parry said after the race. “We needed that medal in the British camp. There are so many more quality British swimmers to come this week and hopefully I’ve got the ball rolling. It’s such an amazing feeling.”

Parry stayed ahead of Yamamoto in second place for almost the entire race. The former Seminole was 0.35 of a second behind Phelps after the first 50 meters and the American extended his lead to more than a second following the first 100 meters. Going into the final lap, Parry held a 0.17 lead on Yamamoto, but the Japanese swimmer swam the final lap a second faster than Parry to earn the silver.

“It got really exciting. Steve was pushing (Michael) Phelps and the two of them just took off,” FSU head coach Neil Harper said. “Stephen tried to make a move at 150 (meters) and caught up to him and it look for a second that he might pull it off, but he ran out of gas and the Japanese guy caught up to him and Stephen held on for the bronze.”

A member of the Great Britain contingency, Parry was fortunate enough to be in the finals, let alone capture his country’s first swimming medal since 1996. His performance in the preliminary round was less than up to his standards as he received the 16th and final spot in the semifinals. Parry redeemed himself during the evening swim as he beat Phelps and earned the top seed in Tuesday’s final.

“Sometimes that’s just the way sports goes,” Harper added. “He was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He had a poor swim in the morning and let the stress and pressure get to him. Luckily for him it wasn’t damaging enough that it didn’t cause him to not make the semifinals. A tenth of a second slower and he’s not in the race.”

What it did for him was take some of the pressure off. Now he’s in the outside lane and had nothing to lose and everything to gain and you could tell he enjoyed swimming again. You could see by the way he swam that the weight had been lifted off his shoulders. It was fun to watch him last night. He tried to keep it low key tonight but it’s tough when you know the whole world is watching.”

Harper is in Athens working primarily as a coach for the Wickus Nienaber and the Swaziland team, but is also working with the four other current and former Seminoles at the Games.

While dreams of gold were on Parry’s mind, he has for the time being gotten the monkey of the back of British swimmers. Four years ago in Sydney, Great Britain failed to earn a medal of any sort in the pool, a first for the country since the 1936 games in Berlin.

Besides ending Britain’s eight-year drought without a medal, Parry also snapped a drought for the Florida State swimming and diving program stretching back to diver Phil Boggs capturing his gold medal on the springboard.

“You could tell that Steve was really relieved at the end,” Harper noted. “He had given himself a shot to win the gold and was able to hold on for the bronze. He said last night that he didn’t want to be fourth, fifth or sixth, he wanted to get that medal. He got what he wanted and it’s great to see that. He soaked it all up.”

This was the second Olympic finals for Parry in the 200-meter butterfly. He placed sixth in the event during his first trip to the Olympics in 2000. At last year’s World Championships in Barcelona, Spain he moved up to fourth before capturing the medal in 2004.

A nine-time All-American for the Seminoles from 1996-99, he captured the 1997 NCAA Championships in the 200 butterfly. His time of 1:44.28 at the University of Minnesota set the pool record. Five times an individual ACC champion with multiple relays titles, he still owns the conference record in the 100 backstroke.

Florida State Head Coach Neil Harper Comments on Stephen Parry’s Bronze Medal in the 200 Butterfly

On the Race:
“It got really exciting. Steve was pushing (Michael) Phelps and the two of them just took off. Stephen tried to make a move at 150 (meters) and caught up to him and it look for a minute that he might pull it off, but he ran out of gas and the Japanese guy caught up to him and Stephen held on for the bronze.”

“You could tell that Steve was really relieved at the end. He had given himself a shot to win the gold and was able to hold on for the bronze. He said last night that he didn’t want to be fourth, fifth or sixth, he wanted to get that medal. He got what he wanted and it’s great to see that. He soaked it all up.”

“Those two are certainly the ones that are fast starters and they are going to take the race out. For Steve, what it did was being next to the world record holder you know that they guy that you are chasing is going to be in the lane right beside you. It gave him someone to focus on and not worry about the other guys that might come up and catch him.”

“It was just awesome. Wining the bronze was just great. He was exited.”

On rebounding from the poor swim in the prelims:
“Sometimes that’s just the way sports goes. He was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He had a poor swim in the morning and let the stress and pressure get to him. Luckily for him it wasn’t damaging enough that it didn’t cause him to not make the semifinals. A tenth of a second slower and he’s not in the race.”

“What it did for him was take some of the pressure off him. Now he’s in the outside lane and had nothing to lose and everything to gain and you could tell he enjoyed swimming again. You could see by the way he swam that the weight had been lifted off his shoulders. It was fun to watch him last night. He tried to keep it low key tonight but you know the whole world is watching.”

On the pressure of being the top seed:
“As hard as he tried to put it away, you could tell he was feeling some of the pressure and stress. When all the athletes walked out onto the deck he tried to wave to the crowd and some of his teammates, but you could tell that he had his game face on.”

“Sometimes that’s not the best way for him to perform. As you saw from the other night he’s at his best when he is footloose and fancy-free. He was the favorite going into the final and there was a lot of pressure, but he handled it well. His demeanor was that it was for all of the marbles and he was swimming in the gold medal lane, but he dealt with it great and came up with his best performance.”