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ATHENS 2004

Beard Records Her First Individual Gold

August 20, 2004|Helene Elliott

ATHENS — Aaron Peirsol had to wait only a few minutes to get his Olympic gold medal Thursday. Amanda Beard waited more than eight years for hers.

Beard, who grew up in Irvine and lives in Tucson, won the 200-meter breaststroke at the Olympic Aquatic Center, adding an individual gold medal to the medley relay gold she won at Atlanta in 1996. A great finishing kick propelled her past Australia's Leisel Jones in the final lap and allowed her to touch the wall in an Olympic-record time of 2 minutes 23.37 seconds.

Beard had set an American record in winning a silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley Tuesday and has won six Olympic medals at three Games.

"I think I'm a lot more experienced than I was in Atlanta and can strategize my race better than Atlanta, and that's helpful," the 22-year-old said. "It was a great race. Me and Leisel both just put it out there. It was great for the fans to watch."

Jones finished second in 2:23.60, with Anne Poleska of Germany third in 2:25.82.

Jones was on a world-record pace after the first 100 meters, cheered on by Aussie teammates Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim and others. But Beard knew the race doesn't always go to the fastest swimmer. Sometimes, persistence wins.

"My coach [Frank Busch at the University of Arizona] reminds me constantly before each race, 'You can't go out that fast. You don't have that speed in you,' " she said. "If I let her get too far ahead, it's a gone race."

She kept Jones within reach, though, and now has a cherished individual gold medal. "I don't think the smile will come off my face for a while," she said.

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