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They Made Waves

Swimming: Dolan and Dutch athletes steal Aussies' thunder with three world records and three gold medals.


SYDNEY, Australia — There was something different in the air at Sydney International Aquatic Center on Sunday night. No pretend guitars, no pretend power chords, no pretend heavy metal from the boys in Australia's favorite house band.

No gold medals, either.

So who took the air guitars out of the Australians' hands?

It was a Dutch-American international coalition that combined for three world records and three gold medals, punctuated by a water-slapping, finger-pointing loud lad named Tom Dolan, who turned the pool into his personal mosh pit with a world record in the 400-meter individual medley.

The other two world records came from the Netherlands: Inge de Bruijn in the final of the women's 100 butterfly and Pieter van den Hoogenband in the semifinals of the men's 200 freestyle. His performance--1 minute 45.35 seconds--stunned the crowd of 17,500 because it broke the world mark of Australian teenager Ian Thorpe, of 1:45.51, set in May.

"I feel a bit weird, because I wanted to swim 1:46. I didn't expect 1:45 when I touched the wall. It was amazing," Van Den Hoogenband said.

After Van Den Hoogenband broke the world record, Thorpe went out in the next heat of the semifinal and nearly got it back, going 1:45.37, missing the record by two-hundredths of a second.

"His record didn't affect my performance," Thorpe said. "You know you're not guaranteed to be able to swim any specific times. I'm happy with how I'm going."

How much does Van Den Hoogenband have left for the final

"A little bit, but I think Ian has a lot more," he said. "It's going to be a great final. I don't think the world record will last that long, but let's see."

The last--and loudest--word came from Dolan after a one-two American finish. He went 4:11.76, winning by a comfortable margin, 2.47 seconds ahead of Erik Vendt of USC. Dolan's world-record time of 4:12.30 had held up since 1994.

His preparation was hardly ideal. Dolan, who suffers from asthma, spent the pre-race afternoon with an oxygen tank in a hot trailer.

Vendt and Dolan weren't at the pool Saturday night when the Australians took the first round. They were hanging out in the athletes village and realized a correction was in order.

"Last night was rough, to get touched out in that relay," Dolan said of the United States' first Olympic loss, to the Australians, in the 400 freestyle relay.

"Erik and I were shaving and I said, 'We gotta go one-two to turn this thing around.' And that's exactly what we did. So hopefully we can keep it going. To be able to go one-two, back to back, in the women's 400 free and the men's 400 IM, it was a huge boost for us."

The two key American women in the spotlight on the night of Day 2 were not expected to be Brooke Bennett and Diana Munz. An emotional Bennett, the 1996 Olympic champion in the 800 freestyle, led from the start and won the 400 freestyle in a personal-best 4:05.80. Munz was 1.27 seconds behind Bennett.

All year, the buzz around the women's team had been all about Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres. But Thompson had a disastrous back half of the 100 butterfly, fading from second to fifth place in 58.73 seconds. De Bruijn won in a world-record 56.61 and the 33-year-old Torres finished third, in 58.20.

Had the Olympics been a year ago, Thompson could very well be the owner of her first individual gold medal. She was the world-record holder in this event, as recently as the spring, before De Bruijn took it away in May.

The Dutch swimmer eclipsed Thompson internationally, and the same thing happened closer to home at Stanford. Torres came out of retirement after a seven-year absence, working out with the Stanford women and immediately started pushing Thompson.

So it was Torres, who won her first individual medal, on the podium, not Thompson.

"She was trying to do what she needed to do," said Stanford and U.S. women's Coach Richard Quick. "Jenny Thompson was not swimming for a silver or bronze. She was swimming for the gold. We felt she had to be out pretty close to Inge and hopefully put pressure on her. But Inge was too fast going out and very, very strong coming back."

Said Thompson: "I know I have a better time in me. I was just trying too hard. I put too much heart into it. The emotion tightened me up in the end."

"I just have to remember not to make it bigger than it is. I have to remember there's more to life than swimming."

For Torres, a medal hardly seemed certain, especially when she needed a last-minute injection for her sore left shoulder.

"It's something she has to monitor and it hurt her in warmup," Quick said. "She got a shot of lidocaine just before the race in order to get it through the race."

Quick marveled at her "extraordinary" performance because they weren't thinking about the butterfly when she first came back.

Said Torres: "I wasn't happy with my time, but who would have thought a year ago that I would be coming home with a medal?"

The other American medal came from Ed Moses, who finished second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.46, only 0.27 behind winner Domenico Fioravanti of Italy. It was the first swimming gold medal for the Italian men's team.

Lenny Krayzelburg of Studio City had the best qualifying time for the final of the 100 backstroke, 54.32, in the semifinals. "It might have to take a world record to win," he said.

The next two fastest qualifiers were Australians Matt Welsh (54.52) and Josh Watson (54.93).

"It is great to have two Australians in the final, especially being on either side of Lenny," Watson said. "Who knows? We might be able to put some pressure on him. No one has ever put pressure on him and if we put enough pressure on him, he might crack."

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