The Book On: Swimming
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Outside magazine, August 1996
The Book On: Swimming
A skeptical world can’t help but ask: will the Chinese women come clean?
In the history of competitive aquatics, no team has ever been so reviled as China’s female swimmers. Arriving at the 1993 short-course world championships with neither records nor recognition, the suspiciously buff team left draped in medals and notoriety. Within two years, seven squad members tested positive for steroid use and were banned from international competition,
Now they’re back. The Chinese women who will show up this summer are mostly unknowns, but thanks to their familiar musculature, doubts still linger. “If they do well, of course there will be questions about drug use,” says Charlie Snyder, spokesperson for U.S. Swimming. The one known quantity on the Chinese team is Jingyi Le, who after tanking in
Jingyi’s recent success and wonder diet notwithstanding, the home-field advantage could give 23-year-old American Amy Van Dyken–who has the year’s fastest sprint times behind Jingyi–the push she needs to capture the 50 and the 100. German powerhouse Franziska Van Almsick, 18, is the likely candidate for a bronze.
The women’s 800-meter event will be an all-American affair. Three-time Olympian Janet Evans, who at 24 already owns four golds and a silver, will be pushed by 16-year-old upstart Brooke Bennett, who once boasted that her elder rival was “scared” of her. Evans shot back, “I’m not impressed,” and then trounced Bennett at
In the men’s events, American Gary Hall Jr. , a goofy blond sprint specialist, is poised to assume Matt Biondi’s swim-hunk mantle. But Hall could easily get aced out of a medal altogether by strong challenges from defending world champion Alexander Popov of Russia, Gustavo Borges of
A lock for a medal of some color is Tom Dolan, 20, world-record holder in the grueling 400-meter individual medley. But Finland’s favorite son, Jani Sievinen, has more international experience than Dolan and could edge him out in a close final.
Meanwhile Australia could tally more swimming medals than any other country. The Aussie to watch is Kieren Perkins, world-record holder in the men’s 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle, who should stomp all comers in both events.