AUSTIN, Tex. — For the first time in more than three years, Janet Evans swam a race that made her smile. Not the familiar expression that she uses to mask disappointment, but a sincere smile to match her spectacular 400-meter freestyle swim of 4 minutes 5.85 seconds.
It was her fastest time in three years, the sixth-fastest in history and it wrapped up her 35th national title Thursday at the Texas Swim Center.
"It's so good to smile and be genuinely happy, (rather) than to be disappointed and put on a happy face," she said. "Do you know how you feel after you've won a national championship or a gold medal (in the Olympics), but your race was slow, and deep down you know you could go faster, but you have to put on a happy face?"
With her trademark windmill stroke and an enhanced kick, Evans, 21, of Placentia, pushed the pace, drawing within striking distance of her 1988 world record 4:03.85 for the first time since 1990.
Evans' time was 1.52 seconds faster than her silver-medal swim in Barcelona last summer, when she was upset by Germany's Dagmar Hase's 4:07.18.
Not only is Evans expected to dominate the 1,500 freestyle today and tie Johnny Weismuller for second on the all-time list of national titles, Bud McAllister predicted that she will break her 1988 world record of 15:52.10.
"It's the easiest of all her records, and with the way she swam in the 400 and the 800 it can happen," said McAllister, her coach from 1985-89.
World record-holder Jeff Rouse lowered his 1993 world-leading time in the 100 backstroke to 54.21 seconds. It was the eighth-fastest time ever, and it gave Rouse of Stanford Swimming seven of the 11 fastest 100 backstroke times in history. . . . Jenny Thompson and Mark Henderson clocked the fastest times in the world this year for their respective genders in the morning preliminaries of the 100 butterfly. Thompson, who is better known as the 100 freestyle world record-holder, posted a 59.45, then won the finals in 59.49. Henderson swam a 53.59, then defeated a star-studded field in the finals with a 53.62. The field included runner-up Mike Merrell of USC (53.74) and Pablo Morales, the Barcelona gold medalist, who placed fifth (54.31). . . . Bill Weaver, the 100 butterfly consolation winner, unveiled a new technique that could revolutionize the event. Weaver, 21, of the Ft. Lauderdale Swim Team, stayed beneath the surface for the first 25 meters of the race, dolphin kicking with his arms stretched over his head and his fingers interlaced. After the turn, he stayed under for 15 meters. Traditionally, butterflyers swim on top of the water after a brief submersion off the dive and the turn. Weaver clocked a lifetime best 54.69 after only three months swimming butterfly.
Chad Carvin, a 1992 graduate of Laguna Hills High, took the lead at the 150 mark to win the 400 freestyle in 3:50.89. . . . Only 0.15 of a second separated the winner from the fourth-place finisher in the 100 breaststroke. Tyler Mayfield beat the pack to the wall in 1:02.31, edging Seth Van Neerden by 0.02 seconds. . . . Despite a lingering case of mononucleosis, Olympian Anita Nall, 17, won her second national title, taking the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.65. . . . B.J. Bedford surged past 100 backstroke Olympic bronze medalist Lea Loveless with eight meters left to touch her out by 0.03 seconds. Bedford's time was the second-fastest in the world this year.