Thompson continues to make splash With five gold medals, she refuses to let up

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was so misleading. The photo showed Jenny Thompson's back, as if to say, "Jenny's back."

Truth is, Jenny Thompson has never been away, at least not from swimming greatness. She was the subject of a nationwide ad campaign for waterproof backpacks, showing her back, and a photo of her back was in Vanity Fair.

At 24, Thompson has been on top of her swimming game without letup since 1987, when she was named Rookie of the Meet in the spring nationals. She has won 18 national titles and five Olympic gold medals.

Last night, in the Phillips 66 National Championships, Thompson was second in the 100-meter butterfly in 59.68 seconds, .19 of a second behind Misty Hyman.

With Friday's 50 freestyle still to go, Thompson has qualified in the 100 freestyle, 400 and 800 freestyle relays and now the 100 butterfly for the U.S. team that will compete in the World Championships in Australia in January.

By Thompson's standards, the only meet that could be construed as poor was the 1996 Olympic trials, when she failed to qualify in an individual event, but she still was on three gold medal relays.

"Jenny has won a lot of races for me, but I was most proud of her the way she handled herself in preparation for the Olympics after the trials," said Richard Quick, Thompson's Stanford coach. "Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she was ready to do anything she could for the U.S. team as a relay member."

Although she graduated from Stanford two years ago, Thompson still trains under Quick with the team.

"I like the team concept," she said. "Swimming at Stanford is like one big family."

Instead of burnout after 10 years of competing at the top level, Thompson's competitive fires still blaze.

"She's in a constant state of re-creating herself as a person and athlete," Quick said. "She has a real mature approach to swimming."

Thompson explains her intensity this way: "I love competition and I love traveling around the world. I'm always trying to improve and that keeps me on my toes."

Although she beat the indomitable Thompson, Hyman had mixed feelings about her swim. She found it disturbing that her time (59.49) paled beside her prelims' 58.72, the fastest in the world this year.

"It was the biggest win of my life and I made the Worlds team," she said. "I'm trying to enjoy the moment and not think of the time."

The North Baltimore Aquatic Club's Beth Botsford, who made the Worlds team with a second in the 100 backstroke Monday, was 43rd in the 100 butterfly yesterday.

"Two or three years from now that will be a good stroke for her," said NBAC's Murray Stephens, who will be the U.S. assistant women's coach for the Worlds. "She has the ability. She just needs endurance, concentration and racing experience."

Swimmers and coaches were still talking about Monday night's bizarre experience when a thunderstorm caused three power failures and a pin securing the bulkhead to the wall broke. The incidents resulted in delays totaling 2 1/2 hours.

"I can't remember anything like this at an indoor meet, and I've been coming to nationals since the 1970's," Stephens said.

NOTES: NBAC's Megan Riddle was 54th in the 200 breaststroke. Beau Wiebel of Frederick and the University of Georgia followed up Sunday's 15th in the 400 individual medley with a 40th in the 400 freestyle in his as yet unsuccessful bid to qualify for the World University Games. "He still has a chance to make it because he has the 200 IM, 200 backstroke and 1,500 freestyle to go," said his Monocacy Aquatic Club coach, Don Feinberg. "Frankly, though, I thought the 400 IM was his best shot." Two Eagles Swim Team members, Baltimoreans Tommy Hannan and Mike Wheeler, qualified for next year's nationals in time trials yesterday, Hannan in the 100 backstroke (58.54) and Wheeler in the 400 freestyle (4: 02.28).

Swimmers who qualified for the World Championships by finishing first or second last night:

Men's 400 freestyle: Chad Carvin, 3: 50.13; John Piersma, 3: 50.49. Women's 200 breaststroke: Jenna Street, 2: 28.97; Kristy Kowal, 2: 29.03. Men's 100 backstroke: Lenny Krayzelburg, 54.69; Neil Walker, 54.77. Women's 100 butterfly: Misty Hyman, 59.49; Jenny Thompson, 59.68.

Pub Date: 7/30/97

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