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U.S. swimming: At 40, Janet Evans places 80th in 400 freestyle

June 26, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Janet Evans looks for her time after competing on Tuesday.
Janet Evans looks for her time after competing on Tuesday. (Al Bello / Getty Images )

OMAHA -- No one prodded the crowd. The public address announcer said nothing. The flames did not shoot up around the pool. The lights did not dance.

Yet the crowd saluted the arrival of one of the most decorated swimmers in American history, cheering on Janet Evans before she swam a one-and-done race in the women's 400 freestyle on Tuesday morning.

Evans won gold in that event at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, one of her four career gold medals. She pursued an improbable comeback for this year's Olympic trials, and she finished 80th among 113 swimmers in the event. The top 16 advanced to Tuesday evening's semifinals.

"I was actually more nervous than ever," she said. "I was talking to my husband about it.  It is such a different situation because when I swam at trials and meets before, I knew I would at least be in the finals, or maybe win or get second.

"It was a very different mental game for me, just swimming to swim.  I am so used to swimming for a purpose.  Just to be here to enjoy it was very different emotionally for me.  I’m not saying it was better or worse.  It was just a different mindset."

Evans is set to swim the 800 freestyle on Saturday, with virtually no chance of advancing past the qualifying heats. Perhaps she will line up then as she lined up on Tuesday, a 40-year-old woman with a 17-year-old in the next lane.

"Closer to my kid's age than my age," she said with a smile.

She said she was touched by the warm reception from the crowd.

"It was so sweet," she said. "I just hope the other girls are OK with all this stuff."

 In other news from Tuesday's morning session:

-- Amanda Beard, in search of her fifth consecutive Olympic berth, finished seventh in qualifying heats in the 100 breaststroke. She advanced to Tuesday night's semifinals, but her chances at making the Olympic team in the event appear slim.

She has a better chance in the 200 backstroke later in the week, but she also has the perspective of a 30-year-old woman in a pool surrounded by teenagers.

"This isn't my life," she said. "I won’t be too devastated if I walk away saying I competed in my fifth Olympic trials and go on a nice vacation with my family."

-- Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps could stage their second showdown Wednesday night, in the 200 freestyle. Lochte posted the fastest time in qualifying heats for the 200 freestyle and the second-fastest time in qualifying heats for the 100 backstroke, then withdrew from the latter event.

He would otherwise have to swim both events again in Tuesday night's semifinals.

"The 100 back hurt worse than the [200] free," Lochte said.

-- Missy Franklin, the likely choice as America's swimming sweetheart, made her trials debut and posted the fastest qualifying time in the 100 backstroke. And, since this meet is being held inside a sports arena and she was looking up as she swam, she could not help but notice the bottom of the overhead scoreboard covered with a white banner featuring the words "United States Olympic Team," the American flag and the Olympic rings.

"Talk about motivation," she said. "You just look up and see the Olympic rings."


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