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Medley Is Her Greatest Hit

Beard turns in an impressive effort, winning silver and setting a U.S. record.

August 18, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Amanda Beard can pull off this renovation work with dizzying speed and precision at the Olympics.

It took her 2 minutes 11.70 seconds to transform a just-for-fun swimming race into a silver medal and an American record here Tuesday night. Throwing a scare into specialist Yana Klochkova of Ukraine, who won in 2:11.14, Beard placed second in the women's 200-meter individual medley. To even be in the same neighborhood as Klochkova is an accomplishment. The 22-year-old completed her sweep of the two individual medley events at the Olympics, repeating her feat of 2000.

In 2000, Beard was swimming only the breaststroke. She started training hard in the 200 IM in the last year, and this was her first international competition. One final and she erased the long-standing American record, of 2:11.91, set by Summer Sanders in 1992.

"I was completely speechless," said Beard, who grew up in Irvine but now lives in Tucson. "That's an old record and a tough one, so I'm pretty stoked about it. Summer has been my idol. It's a great honor to be in her company. I was very excited about the time, but I feel there are better things coming."

Beard made her big move on the breaststroke leg, of course. She was able to scramble back from fifth at the first 100 to second place with 50 meters remaining. Fifteen-year-old Katie Hoff of Baltimore, who beat Beard at the trials in this event, faded in the latter stages, falling from second at the 100 to seventh place, going 2:13.97.

"My race is to try to stay as close as possible to my competitors in the first 100," Beard said. "I can't let them get too far ahead of me because I'm not superwoman on the breaststroke. My whole race is the 50 breaststroke, to try to catch up and get ahead so I can try to hold them off in the freestyle. I did a pretty good job of that, besides Yana."

Beard, 22, was visibly excited, having tucked away another medal. The silver was her fifth medal in three Olympics. She won two silvers and a gold as a 14-year-old in 1996, and a bronze in 2000. There could be more with the 200 breaststroke, in which she holds the world record, and the 400 medley relay still to come. "They all mean quite a lot to me," she said. "In '96, it was very easy, very natural, and 2000 was a complete struggle. This time, it's never easy. The older I get, the more special it becomes to me."

Then there was this for opponents to consider: "I'm only going to be 26 in Beijing," Beard said, laughing.

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