OMAHA -- While the advance buzz over the Olympic swimming trials has been over whether Michael Phelps will swim the 400-meter individual medley, the women's 400 IM has a bit of intrigue of its own.
Katie Hoff, who trained at North Baltimore Aquatic Club in the years leading to the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, let drop Saturday that she's not swimming the notoriously taxing medley -- a race for which she holds the American record and one that showcases her versatility.
Asked which events she would enter when competition begins Monday, Hoff listed the 200- and 400-meter freestyles, letting her voice trail off in vagueness over any additional races.
Ever helpful, I prompted: the 400 IM?
No, Hoff said, that's out.
She wouldn't specify exactly why, although she talked a bit about how compared to the past, she's much more focused these days. Hoff, who in 2008 was the only woman to qualify for all 13 events at the trials, signed up for four races this time around, the 800-meter freestyle in addition to the three already mentioned.
"I'm more focused. I've zeroed my focus in on a couple events," Hoff said.
While Hoff won one silver and two bronze at the Beijing Olympics, she entered with far greater expectations and what she would later acknowledge was an exhausting line-up -- five individual events plus a relay. It didn't help that she was also shackled by the "female Phelps" label, given their shared pool and appetite for ambitious schedules.
Hoff has coach-hopped a bit, and recently returned to Paul Yetter, her coach for much of her time at NBAC and now training swimmers at T2 Aquatics in Naples, Fla. In between, she worked with Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, and Jon Urbancheck at the Fullerton, Calif., Aquatics Sports Team. Hoff's parents still live in the Baltimore area.
Now 23 and approaching her third trials, Hoff says she's much more relaxed than her younger, more anxious self.
"I was so worried, what if I didn't make the team? What would people say?" she said, rolling her eyes at her mindset heading into the 2008 trials. Instead, she killed -- winning five events and setting a world record in the 400 IM.
"Now, I'm going to go out there," Hoff said, "whatever is going to happen is going to happen."