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Nerves Too Much for Stitts, but Krayzelburg Advances


SYDNEY, Australia — Olympic nerves were bound to get to someone, and unfortunately, that someone was Staciana Stitts of Carlsbad.

Stitts was teary-eyed after failing to qualify for the semifinals this morning in the 100-meter breaststroke, finishing 18th in 1 minute 10.54 seconds, well off her trials time of 1:07.79.

Her coach, Dave Salo of Irvine Novaquatics, knew she was in for a rough race when he watched her on the deck.

"As a coach, I can tell how my swimmers are going to swim before they get in the water," he said. "It wasn't the relaxed state she usually walks out in. Every Olympics is like this, you always have people who step up and just get spooked."

Said Stitts: "I was so overwhelmed with making the team, so happy with that, it was hard for me to come here and really feel like I was in the hunt. I was really struggling to feel strong mentally.

"I didn't look at it the right way from the beginning. It overtakes you. It shouldn't be intimidating because I've raced all these people before."

World-record holder Lenny Krayzelburg of Studio City made his Olympic debut and looked smooth in the prelims of the 100 backstroke, going 54.38, the fastest time of the morning. He admitted to a few jitters.

"Oh yeah, of course. It's like no other meet in the world," Krayzelburg said. "And I've never been to the Olympics, such a big event. It's good to get the first swim out of the way."

Stitts received a great deal of attention because of her maturity in dealing with her longtime condition of alopecia, which caused her hair to fall out.

But, as good a story as Stitts has been, the Cal student is an even better person. Once she made the team, her goal was to help her friend and former club teammate Amanda Beard get to Sydney. Salo said Stitts offered to act as something of a rabbit in the 200 breaststroke at the trials, forcing Megan Quann into a faster pace to benefit Beard in the back half.

Salo told her she didn't need to make that sacrifice, that Beard could do it, which ended up happening.

Stitts wasn't the only American woman dealing with a rough morning. Courtney Shealy failed to make the semifinals, finishing 18th in the 100 backstroke in 1:03.19. B.J. Bedford advanced to the next round with the fourth-fastest time (1:01.70).

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