SWIMNEWS ONLINE: January 1997 Magazine Articles

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George Block

SAN ANTONIO - 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 group swimmers.

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.

Day 1

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 States Swimming.

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 Bridgewater.

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 event.

USC handily won both 800 Free Relays to close out the record setting first day.

Day 2

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.

Misty Hyman, newest butterfly innovation got her a world record
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Dan Helms

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 meet record.

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 400 I.M.

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.

Day 3

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 meet!

"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 year.

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."

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