SYDNEY, Australia - Tommy Hannan will be in the stands at the International Aquatic Centre tomorrow, cheering on American teammates who can make him an Olympic gold medalist.
Hannan swam the butterfly leg for the United States in the preliminaries of the 400 medley relay this morning. Advancement to the final, which will climax eight days of record-setting at the IAC, was a formality for the Americans, as Hannan joined Neil Walker, Ed Moses and Jason Lezak with the third-fastest qualifying time, behind the Germans and Hungarians.
The final should be a duel between the home-team Australians and the United States, as both teams will load up with their stars. Lenny Krayzelburg will replace Walker on the opening backstroke leg and Gary Hall will close in the freestyle instead of Lezak.
Preliminary participants receive the same medals as their nation's finalists, the only ones who get on the awards podium. Hannan didn't earn that honor, as the 20-year-old product of Mount St. Joseph High and the Eagle Swim Team had a subpar swim in the semifinals of the 100 butterfly.
Hannan finished seventh, as his time of 53.59 seconds was slower than the one he had in yesterday morning's opening round and worse than any he had at the U.S. trials.
Hannan's split in the relay was 53.32. He was asked if his inclusion in the relay preliminary lessened any of the emotional pain he felt after a lackluster performance in the individual event.
"Not at all," Hannan said. "This could be the most embarrassing race of my life. I have to learn from it, and never let it happen again. It was such a big event, I have my family here, and I wanted to swim better than that. This is kind of a double-edged sword. I've got mixed emotions about this."
Hannan produced under enormous pressure at the U.S. Olympic swim trials last month. He was unable to duplicate that performance in the Games themselves, as he faded in the closing strokes and ranked 14th among the 16 participants.
"That was not a good one," he said. "I went after it too much. That was not the ending I was looking for. I died on the way home. My legs died on me. I was in great position with seven meters to go. I was ready to go 53.2, 53.3, but my body stopped working. That's not like me at all."
Hannan was third at the 50 wall in 24.63 seconds, quick but not as fast as he had gone in the trials finals. Four swimmers passed him in the second 50. His race was won by Geoff Heugill in an Olympic-record 51.96 seconds.
Michael Klim, an Australian teammate of Heugill, won the other semifinal. The third seed in the final will be Ian Crocker, an 18-year-old who will join Hannan at the University of Texas but will now replace him on the relay team.
Crocker's semifinal time was 52.82. Hannan swam 52.81 in the trials final.
Crocker is from Portland, Maine, a state that doesn't have a single 50-meter pool. He will swim in the medley relay final as the U.S. tries to silence the Australians and win the gold.
Chelsea Clinton was among the 18,000 at the IAC for the session in which Hannan swam his semifinal.