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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

U.S. Continues to Pool Victories

Swimming: Beard is second to Heyns again, but Rouse, Van Dyken and men's 400-relay team triumph.

July 24, 1996|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Penny Heyns must have felt she was carrying the hopes of South Africa on her shoulders, having received a congratulatory fax from President Nelson Mandela and having patiently answered questions about what another gold medal would mean for the country still emerging from decades of sporting isolation.

Amanda Beard of Irvine, 14, seven years younger than Heyns, has been carrying a teddy bear around. Nerves are for adults and for Beard, the Olympics are one big slumber party.

The festivities continued for U.S. swimmers Tuesday as Beard won her second silver medal, Jeff Rouse won the 100 backstroke, Gary Hall Jr. anchored the winning 400-meter freestyle relay team and Amy Van Dyken and Angel Martino finished first and third in the 100 butterfly.

"U.S. Swimming is not dead and we are going to continue to dominate the world," Rouse said. "There's lots of critics with their feet in their mouths."

In the hours before her 200-meter breaststroke final Tuesday, Beard was wired, running around the halls, having a "pen fight" with Kristine Quance, drawing colorfully on each other and whatever teammates they could ambush.

Not much later, Beard raced into the pool and nearly ambushed Heyns in the final 50 meters, making up almost two seconds. But she ran out of time, finishing second in 2 minutes 25.75 seconds for her second silver medal of the Olympics.

The resilient Heyns fought past her dislike of the 200 breaststroke and won her second gold medal, breaking the Olympic record for the second time in the day, in 2:25.41.

"I saw second place and that's perfect for me," Beard said. "I didn't really care if I got a gold or a silver. It's just the same and I love to race her."

Hall put his name in the record book with a sensational anchor leg, the fastest 100-meter split ever recorded, 47.45 seconds, for the winning American 400 freestyle relay team. Hall's effort surpassed Matt Biondi's split of 47.66 seconds in 1985.

The Americans have never lost this event in Olympic or world competition. Swimming with Hall were Jon Olsen, Josh Davis and Brad Schumacher.

Heading into the anchor leg, the Americans were barely trailing Russia and Germany. Then Hall blasted off and the suspense ended as the U.S. won the gold in 3:15.41, an Olympic record, and Russia took the silver in 3:17.06.

Olsen compared Hall to Biondi.

"No matter what the first three guys did in the past, when Matt Biondi goes in the pool, you knew it was over," Olsen said. "It was kind of the same thing tonight--you knew the big guy was going to come through."

Said Hall: "I was breathing every stroke, I think. Going out that fast is good news for my 50 [freestyle]. The speed was there."

An understatement, when you consider the total turnaround was 2.27 seconds from the third leg to the finish.

It was a night of fast starts and explosive finishes, particularly for the Americans but not exclusively. World-record holder Rouse led the entire way and won his first Olympic gold medal in an individual event, going 54.10 in the 100 backstroke and shaking off his label of always failing to win the big races.

Danyon Loader of New Zealand won his second gold medal of the Games, this time in the 400 freestyle in 3:47.97.

Said Rouse, who finished well ahead of Cuban swimmers Rodolfo Falcon and Nessier Bent, "You take any successful person--in the business world, athletics, doctors--they don't get where they are without failing and falling on their face at least once," said Rouse, who was upset in the 1992 Olympics and finished second.

Van Dyken, who collapsed from leg cramps Saturday after her first race here, surprised herself and won the 100 butterfly in 59.13. China's Liu Limin was second, and Martino finished third.

"It's like the Super Bowl," said Van Dyken, who celebrated by throwing her bouquet of flowers into the stands.

The only major disappointment for the U.S. team was Tom Dolan's failure to make the 400 freestyle finals. He qualified 11th in 3:53.91 and said he was still feeling the impact of his victory in the 400 individual medley on Sunday.

"I was real sore," he said. "My muscles didn't feel like they had really recovered yet."

Beard certainly felt no disappointment, beaming the same way she had Sunday after finishing second to Heyns in the 100 breaststroke. She was fifth after 50 meters and moved up to third by the first 100.

"In the last 50 meters, I said no matter how hard this hurts, it's going to be over and I'll feel better about five minutes afterward," Beard said. "So you might as well put everything into it now. So I did and it was all worth it because I got my silver."

Beard joked that she needed a new race to give her more time to catch Heyns: "I think I need a 400 breaststroke."

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