- The 1996 US Open, held December 5 to 7, was a coming out of sorts. It
was the first major, national meet held at the Palo Alto Natatorium in San
Antonio and the first fleeting glance at what may be the "class of
2000" for the United States. Both groups lived up to their hype.
The Palo Alto pool is as fast as it looks. The
meet opened with 7 records in the first 12 events. The pool was re-surveyed
immediately after finals and proved to be just under the maximum tolerance.
By the end of the meet, there had been 23 record-breaking swims and a couple
of additional close calls.
The stars of the meet were clearly Misty Hyman,
who picked up where she left off the week before at the Canadian Open, and
Nick Kaschik, a transplanted Texan star (Houston Dad's Club) now representing
the Peddie School. For their efforts, both walkedambled away with a high-point
Texas cowboy hat.
With the exception of a flood of Canadian teams,
the only international representation came courtesy of the United States
collegiate teams. That good fortune yielded over 30 Olympians from more
than 10 countries, which easily satisfied the autograph-hungry local age
The local organizers tried hard, independent of
the efforts of United States Swimming, to lure an international field, but
with 1996 budgets fully committed to the Olympics, there were no national
teams at this meet. The result was a laid-back, fun, fast meet.
One of the best lines of the meet was heard the
night prior to opening, when one of the Canadian swimmers attending a US
college commented on the surprising Canadian attendance at a US Open practically
on the Mexican border. "I haven't heard this many Canadian accents
since I left for college."
In spite of the outstanding swimming, chamber-of-commerce
weather, and Texas hospitality, the meet was not without controversy. Perhaps
it was inevitable that there would be a (small) clash of cultures. But one
managed to occur on the very first night.
The meet opened with Kristine Quance (USC) leading
a very good field to a meet record in the 200 I.M. Nick Kaschik (Peddie)
followed suit by smashing both a meet record and Tom Dolan (Cut-Burke) in
the men's 200 I.M.
The controversy seeped out in the third event.
Brooke Bennett (Brandon Swim & Tenn) just touched out Jessica Foschi
(Long Island) in the 400 freestyle, while both girls crushed Bennett's previous
record. Although the Canadian contingent applauded
Bennett's record, they were much more reserved
in acknowledging Foschi.
The question asked was, "How can she (Foschi)
swim in an international meet, when she is under a two-year suspension from
FINA?" Charlie Snyder, Director of Communications for United States
Swimming, sought a higher authority.
Steve Roush, the Assistant Executive Director for
US Swimming, has been the staff point-person on the Foschi case since it
started. For a hot potato like this, Ray Essick (USS Executive Director)
couldn't have picked a better person. Roush is a detail-oriented business
person with a swimming background, and a wonderful ambassador for United
Roush explained, "In FINA, suspension applies
only to those events that are specifically FINA-run. The US Open is essentially
a domestic competition, open to invited, foreign teams. Foschi has already
been banned from (at least) one, FINA-run competition she wanted to attend.
(United States Swimming) is banned by (American) courts from suspending
her from domestic meets."
"If she wanted to swim (in Canada), it would
be up to them what they did, not FINA."
As a creeping liberalism seems to be overtaking
the court systems throughout the English-speaking world, and the International
Court of Sport Arbitration returns medals to swimmers with positive drug
tests, this may be the most clarity we can hope for today.
John Leonard, the Executive Director of the American
Swimming Coaches Association, spent most of his time at the meet soliciting
signatures on a statement of principles for a World Swimming Organization.
His biggest battle was apathy. Most people didn't care. They assumed the
battle was over, when in fact, structurally, nothing has changed.
Bela Szabados, a Hungarian by way of USC by way
of Florida, won the men's 400 freestyle.
Kristin MacGregor (Lake Forest Swim Club) resumed
the record breaking in the women's 100 breast, topping Kristin Quance in
a very tight race.
Jeremy Linn (Univ. of Tennessee) duplicated the
feat with his own meet record in the men's 100 breast, with Nick Kaschik
less than 1/2 second behind.
Misty Hyman broke the meet record in the women's
200 back in both prelims and finals, but didn't even win the race! That
honour went to Lia Oberstar (Southern Methodist Univ.), who swam an exceptionally
controlled race, leading only at the finish.
Lenny Krayzelburg (USC) took the first of his two
backstroke events, soundly beating Olympic Gold Medallistand fellow TrojanBrad
Lindsey Farella (Palatine Park District) won the
women's 50 freestyle, less that 4/10 s off Amy Van Dyken's record, while
Jamaican Olympian Sion Brinn, from Bengal Tigers and LSU, won the men's
USC handily won both 800 Free Relays to close out
the record setting first day.
On Friday, Misty Hyman and Lia Oberstar picked
up where they left off the night before. Hyman twice broke the US Open and
meet record, but was touched out by a fast closing Oberstar, for three records
in one event!
Krayzelburg picked up his second backstroke win,
this time over two Olympians, Bridgewater and Brian Retterer, the former
Stanford star now representing Curl-Burke.
Farella showed she had more than just speed by holding off both Foschi and Quance for a 200 freestyle win.
Szabados demonstrated the same mastery of the short
course 200 that he showed in winning last year's NCAA event, by setting
a new meet record in the men's 200 freestyle.
Just when the hosts worried that they might run
out of record certificates, four were needed for the women's 100 fly. Although
no one, not even (3rd place) Oberstar, would come close to Hyman in her
now World Record event, the top four women Hyman, Michala Kwasny (Ft. Wayne
Aquatics), Oberstar, and Karen Campbell (USC)all broke Britta Puggaard's
David Chan, 17 (Clovis, Calif.), was another "Class
of 2000" swimmer to post a win, this time in the men's 100 fly.
Just so the youngsters wouldn't get complacent,
Kristine Quance buried a young, fast field and buried her old, fast record
in the women's 400 I.M.
Tom Dolan showed that experience must mean something
in this event, because the "old guys" swam away with the men's
The women's 400 medley relay was perhaps a preview
of the NCAA event, with USC touching out SMU, and both teams breaking the
meet record. The men's event wasn't nearly as competitive, as USC easily
handled Texas A&M.
The final day began with a reprise of Day 1's controversy,
as both Brooke Bennett and Jessica Foschi broke Bennett's 800 freestyle
record, Bennett taking the gold.
Actually, no one took the gold. Ever. Not in this
"These kids have so many ribbons and medals
at home in their drawers. I just thought they needed something else,"
said facility director Denny Ryther. Winning swimmers got blue (1st), red
(2nd), and white (3rd) baseball caps, embroidered with the confetti-like
meet logo. Nowhere did it say anything about "place." This led
to the unheard-of opportunity for multiple-event winners to trade a "blue
for a red" so they could have a full set of caps.
Martina Moravcova (SMU and Slovakia) won her cap
by beating Farella in the women's 100 free. Sion Brinn did the same to Bela
Szabados in the men's event.
Kristine Quance left the field so far behind in
the 200 breaststroke that she was not pushed, barely missing her own record.
In the men's event, however, the first three swimmers were within 14/100
s of each other, and all barely missed breaking Roque Santo's meet record.
Just when it seemed like the record breaking was
over for the weekend, Misty Hyman and Lia Oberstar went at it again, this
time in the 200 fly. Both swimmers were well under Puggaard's record, with
Hyman a full second ahead of Oberstar, and an additional second ahead of
Moravcova, who broke the record during the preliminary heats.
"This is your choice," responded Hyman's
coach Bob Gillett, when asked about the probability of the FINA medical
commission recommending that Hyman's style be made illegal. "You can
get a cute girl like her, or you can get steroids. If we don't allow innovation,
we're going to get more pharmaceuticals. It's absurd, to me, to see how
little has really been done about drugs, when I see how easily they eliminated
(Berkoff's) underwater backstroke. Instead of focusing on the dopers, they
are focusing on her!"
Jeff Julian (USC) edged Ugur Taner (Napa) in the
men's 200 fly.
Tom Dolan eked out a win in the 1500 freestyle
over Jeremy Kane (Santa Clara Swim Club), one of the "next generation"
distance stars at this meet.
USC finished its domination of the female half
of the meet with an easy win in the 400 freestyle relay. And although its
men's relay broke the meet record in the same event, Texas A&M broke
it by 28/100 s more to win its first set of blue caps and set its first
meet record on the last event of the meet.
Former world champion Mel Nash showed what his
new facility and focus on the men's program is doing at College Station.
Texas A&M looks poised to move up from it's best-ever NCAA finish last
With 23 records broken at this meet and his USC
team dominating, Mark Schubert was asked if he felt that it was a good thing
that the NCAA meet will finally be held short course metres (in 2000), instead
of the traditional 25 yard format.
"I was pleasantly surprised that they made that decision, but I'd be stunned if it actually takes place. Obviously the SC metres records are soft and it would be great for our sport, and for American swimming, and for college swimming, but don't hold your breath. We'll find a way to chicken out."