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U.S. Strikes Gold

Atlanta 1996 Olympics

July 22, 1996|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Olympic watchers from this country weren't the only ones breathing easier Sunday after the U.S. won its first two gold medals on the second day of the Summer Games.

So was swimmer Tom Dolan, who overcame exercise-induced asthma to win the first American gold medal in Atlanta with a final-lap sprint in the 400-meter individual medley at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center.

With a time of 4 minutes, 14.90 seconds, Dolan defeated U.S. teammate Eric Namesik by just over three-tenths of a second.

"It was definitely a struggle to get through it," said Dolan, 20, a University of Michigan student who keeps an inhaler by the pool when he practices because of occasional blackouts. "I had a lot of trouble breathing today . . . more trouble tonight.

"But I knew if I got in the race, my body would fight through it."

Later in the evening, the U.S. used a fast anchor leg by Ryan Berube to win a gold medal in the men's 800-meter freestyle relay. With a time of 7:14.84, the U.S. won by nearly three seconds over Sweden. It was the U.S. men's eighth victory in that event in the nine Olympics in which it has participated since 1960.

In Sunday's other Olympic highlight, Amanda Beard, the 14-year-old from Irvine who was primed to become one of the Games' stereotypical sweethearts, finished second by less than four-tenths of a second to South Africa's Penny Heyns in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Even though Beard's time of 1:08.09--just behind Heyns' 1:07.72--was an American record, it was not considered Beard's best event. She is expected to have a better chance at the gold Tuesday in the 200-meter breaststroke and may also appear in the 400 medley relay Wednesday.

It appeared that Beard's right toe became caught on the starting block before the race.

"My toe went over the edge and I was trying to move back and I was like, 'Oh gosh,' " Beard said.

Beard fell far enough behind Heyns that even Beard's trademark closing kick was not sufficient. Heyns had set a world record in the preliminaries with a time of 1:07.02.

Details in Sports.

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