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SWIMMING / THERESA SMITH MUNOZ : Summer Work Makes Fox Historically Fast


Until recently, David Fox was known in swimming parlance as a drop-dead sprinter.

He was competitive in the 50-yard freestyle, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference titles for North Carolina State in 1991, '92 and '93.

And at the NCAA championships in March, he made a major breakthrough, winning the national championship in an NCAA record 19.14 seconds, 0.01 faster than Matt Biondi's 1987 record.

But the extra swimming required in the more popular distance, the 50-meter freestyle--a single straightaway with no flip turn--proved to be Fox's undoing.

It showed at the national championships last August, when Fox, from Raleigh, N.C., finished seventh in the 50-meter freestyle in a pedestrian 23.49 seconds in a meet without the Barcelona Olympians.

Improvement in the 50 usually comes in increments of hundredths of a second. So Fox's 22.30 in the World University Games earlier this month drew plenty of attention.

In one swim, he became the third-fastest American 50-meter freestyler in history, trailing Tom Jager, the world record-holder (21.81) and Biondi (21.85). Before the race, Fox wasn't ranked in the top 25 of all-time U.S. sprinters.

The World University Games runner-up, UCLA's Brian Kurza, also dramatically improved. Kurza entered the race ranked 23rd among all-time American sprinters with a time of 22.94. He touched in 22.41, ascending to fifth on the list.

Fox also won the 100 freestyle at the World University Games in 50.18, the 10th-fastest time by an American and a sharp contrast to the 52.13 he had for a 16th-place finish at the nationals last summer.

He attributes his improvement to training seriously in the summer for the first time. In the past, he said his summer swimming was limited to staying in shape for the collegiate season.

The difference is clear at this week's national championships, where U.S. Swimming put him on center stage with Barcelona Olympians to help promote the meet at Austin, Tex.

Then Fox swam to a fourth-place finish in the 100 freestyle Wednesday, clocking 50.45 seconds.


Rachel Joseph's U.S. Olympic Festival record of 2:13.42 in the 200-meter backstroke is the sixth-fastest time in the world this year. Joseph, 16, of Springfield, Ore., won all five of her festival races, three in record time.

In all, nine records were broken and one was tied in the Palo Alto Natatorium at San Antonio.

Not only is the pool fast (each lane lacks turbulence because the water is 18 feet deep in some points), the sold-out, vocal crowds of 2,500 enhanced the atmosphere. Joseph, who broke the event's 200 backstroke record by 3.2 seconds, also was inspired by last Friday's opening ceremony.

"I've never seen anything like that in my life," she said of the overflow crowd at 62,702 at the Alamodome. "It got me so excited to swim fast."

Joseph slowed in the summer nationals in Austin, Tex., failing to make the finals in the 200 backstroke, but winning the consolation finals Tuesday in 2:14.55.

Swimming Notes

More than 90% of the U.S. Olympic Festival swimmers made the drive to Austin to compete in nationals. . . . Stanford-bound Scott Jones shaved 0.60 seconds off his best time to win the festival 100 freestyle in 50.94. "I've had problems going out too fast and dying," said Jones, who is 6 feet 6. "I wanted to go out smooth and come back fast, but I went out real fast, and fortunately, I came home well." . . . Scott Claypool, the No. 1 pick in the NFL-style Olympic Festival swimming draft, rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the 100 freestyle (51.53) last Saturday to win the 50 freestyle Monday in 23.50. . . . It's a testament to Sippy Woodhead's ability that her festival-record 57.36 in the 100 freestyle lasted 14 years. Woodhead, a USC assistant, recorded the time at 8,000 feet in Colorado Springs, Colo. Swimming in the lower-profile heat at this year's festival, Catherine Fox, 15, upset the field and broke Woodhead's record with a 57.09. "The last 25 was really painful," said Fox, of the Kansas City Blazers. "I knew everybody else had to hurt so I kept me head down and went for it." . . . Tate Blahnik drew attention in Orlando, Fla., last December as the unexpected winner of the U.S. Open 200 backstroke. Saturday, Blahnik lowered the festival 200 backstroke record by 1.8 seconds with a 2:01.81. . . . Quotable: Cathy O'Neill on the race plan she used to win the 200 breaststroke: "I usually don't have one."

UPCOMING: Through Friday: U.S. Swimming national championships, Austin, Tex. (Turner Broadcasting System); Aug. 6-10: Junior Nationals West, Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 12-15: Pan Pacific Championships, Kobe, Japan (U.S. team will be selected based on performances at the U.S. Swimming national championships); Aug. 13-22: European Championships, Sheffield, England.

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