Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Jenny Thompson makes event No. 2

US OLYMPIC TRIALS The 31-year-old won the 50m freestyle final after she qualified in the 100m butterfly. Thompson is the second American swimmer to be in four Olympics

AP , LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Jenny Thompson during the 50m freestyle final during the US Olympic trials in Long Beach, California, Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Jenny Thompson won the 50m freestyle at the US Olympic swimming trials on Wednesday, giving her a second individual event at the Athens Games. She also qualified in the 100m butterfly.

The 31-year-old Thompson was slowest off the block but caught the field during a furious dash to the opposite wall. She won in 25.02 seconds, while Kara Lynn Joyce finished second (25.11) to also claim a second individual spot on the Olympic team.

Thompson will be just the second American swimmer to take part in four Olympics. She has won 10 medals -- more than any other woman -- but her eight golds have all been in relays.

Individually, Thompson has been limited to a silver and a bronze, both in the 100m free. She failed to qualify for that event at these trials -- Joyce was the upset winner -- and conceded that her medal chances in the 50m weren't that strong.

Thompson's winning time was only the eighth-fastest in the world this year.

"Although my 100m free was what I wanted it to be, I know I can be a lot faster in Athens," she said.

Thompson considered retirement after the 2000 Sydney Games, but decided to come back for one more Olympics. She had to cope with the death of her mother, who succumbed to cancer in February after being a major force in Thompson's swimming career.

Through it all, she insists that she didn't come back to win an Olympic gold.

"It's not what is motivating me," she said. "I just want to end my career on a really positive note."

Thompson said she would be honored to be the swimming team captain, a role that already has spurred lobbying by three-time Olympian Gary Hall Jr.

Larsen Jensen closed a record-breaking meet in appropriate fashion: setting a new American mark in the 1,500m freestyle. He became just the third US man to go under 15 minutes at 14:56.71, overcoming the mark of 14:56.81 that earned Chris Thompson a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics.

The 18-year-old Jensen is a rising star of distance swimming, though he'll have his work cut out for him in Athens. The Australians, led by Grant Hackett, have long ruled the longest event in swimming.

"I'm looking forward to racing Grant Hackett in Athens," said Jensen, who already had qualified to swim the 400m free in Athens.

"I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish it. I was hurting so bad."

Erik Vendt claimed the second spot in the 1,500m at 15:11.96. Chris Thompson got into the final because another swimmer scratched but finished far back in seventh at 15:44.57. He didn't have time to prepare after fracturing both elbows during a May training mishap.

Six world records were set during the meet, boding well for American hopes of another big medal haul in Athens. Four years ago, the US team led all nations with 14 golds and 33 medals overall.

Earlier Wednesday, Michael Phelps announced that he would give up one of his individual spots on the Olympic team, the 200m backstroke. He qualified in five other events and, combined with the relays, hopes to equal or break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals.

Phelps' decision put Bryce Hunt on the Olympic team. He finished third at the trials behind Aaron Peirsol, who broke his own world record, and Phelps.

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