INDIANAPOLIS — Jessica Foschi finished fourth in the 800-meter freestyle at the Olympic trials on Monday night, when she needed to finish first or second to make the U.S. team for the Atlanta Games. Brooke Bennett won the event, Janet Evans was second and a lot of swimming officials were relieved.
"Yep," said former Olympian Bill Stapleton, who served on the first U.S. Swimming appeals panel that accepted Foschi's story that she never took steroids knowingly, despite a positive test at last summer's national championships. "This simplifies things for U.S. Swimming."
Foschi, the 15-year-old high school sophomore from Old Brookville, N.Y., had come into the trials among the nation's best five or six distance freestylers, but her times never really threatened Bennett or Evans. Monday night's race went according to form as Florida native Bennett, also 15, fulfilled the reputation she built over the past two years as a worthy protege of Evans, who is heading to her third Olympic Games at 24.
Bennett immediately went to the lead and churned to the victory in 8:31.41. Evans, whose 7-year-old world record (8:16.22) still stands, settled into third behind Bennett and 19-year-old Floridian Trina Jackson for 300 meters, then took over second and easily held on for her Olympic berth in 8:33.60.
Jackson finished third in in 8:35.52, ahead of Foschi's 8:41.61.
"I wasn't really that concerned about not making the team," Foschi said through a U.S. Swimming spokesman. "I didn't feel any pressure. I wasn't scared or anything."
Foschi got what she most wanted--a chance to swim in the trials against the nation's best; and both U.S. Swimming and the sport's global ruling body, FINA, got what they wanted--Foschi didn't qualify for the Olympics.
FINA has said that any positive steroid test, regardless of an athlete's intent or knowledge, mandates a two-year suspension, and U.S. Swimming's top officials agreed.
Foschi and her family still are awaiting an arbitrator's ruling in an attempt to have her two-year probation dropped. Also, there's a suit pending in New York State court to prevent sanctions against her without due process.
Tom Dolan qualified to swim his third individual event in Atlanta by winning the 200 individual medley. Greg Burgess qualified for his second Olympic team in a row by finishing second in 2:01.55. . . . Gary Hall Jr., won the 50 freestyle in 22.27 seconds. David Fox of Raleigh, N.C., took second in 22.50. . . . Beth Botsford of Baltimore, one of three 14-year-olds on the Olympic team, won the 200 backstroke. Whitney Hedgepeth was second.