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Thursday, July 8, 2004
Updated: July 9, 5:46 PM ET
Hansen sets world record in breaststroke

Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Jenny Thompson touched the wall, searched for the scoreboard and broke into a huge smile when she saw a "2" pop up beside her name.

She was heading back to the Olympics.

If only her mom could have been there to see it.

Thompson finished second in the 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. Olympic trials on Thursday, which should be good enough to get the 31-year-old, 10-time medalist to the Athens Games.

"The 2 is just as good as the 1 at the trials," she said.

Only one other American swimmer, former Thompson rival Dara Torres, has competed in four Olympics. This one is the most poignant of all for Thompson.

Her mother, Margrid, died in February after battling cancer, but her presence was everywhere on this evening. From a dream Thompson had about her mother the previous night -- "she was really beautiful and happy; she was by the ocean" -- to the wool ski cap donned by the swimmer's coach, John Collins.

While the brown and white cap looked out of place at a pool beside the Long Beach harbor, nothing could have been more appropriate for Thompson. Her mother often donned the headgear for Jenny's meets, cheering on one of the most celebrated American swimmers in history.

A couple of weeks ago, Thompson sent the cap to her coach.

"I was really touched that he wore it for the race," she said. "The fourth (trip to the Olympics) is just as sweet as the first one."

For the second night in a row, the temporary pool produced a world record. Brendan Hansen broke the mark in the men's 100 breaststroke, dominating the field with a time of 59.30 seconds.

The expected duel with Ed Moses never materialized. The Sydney silver medalist missed a spot on the team by finishing sixth, nearly 3 seconds behind the winner.

Hansen redeemed the gut-wrenching disappointment of the 2000 trials, when he finished third in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes -- just missing the team in both events.

"I was racing the Brendan Hansen from the 2000 Olympic trials," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to the Olympics. This is a stage I've never been on before."

The top two in each event are expected to represent the United States in Athens. That bodes well for Thompson, who put off her medical career to go for a fourth Olympics.

Rachel Komisarz touched the wall first in 58.77, while Thompson held on for second at 58.98. She barely nipped Demerae Christianson, who was 0.11 seconds behind in third.

"It's a bit of a relief," Thompson said. "My preliminary swims weren't that great."

Thompson, who won the event at last year's world championship, hasn't gotten back to that level. She finished 1.4 seconds off her time from the 2000 Olympic trials.

Thompson also has entered the 50 and 100 freestyles, giving her a chance to swim more events at the Olympics and take care of some unfinished business.

Despite winning more medals than any female Olympian, she has never earned an individual gold. All her wins have come in relays.

Hansen, who broke the American record he shared with Moses in the semifinals, went even faster in the final. He easily eclipsed the record of 59.78 set by Japan's Kosuke Kitajima at last year's world championships.

When Hansen saw the time, he slapped the water with his right hand and shook his head in disbelief.

Moses, who has struggled with injuries since Sydney and may have a case of food poisoning, was never a factor. He touched the wall, looked at the scoreboard and grimaced, his time actually slower than what he did in the semis.

"I'm really disappointed," said Moses, who has another chance to qualify in the 200 breaststroke. "I hold myself accountable for all of it."

Michael Phelps cruised into Friday's final of the 200 freestyle, his second of six events at the trials. He set a world record in the 400 individual medley on the opening night.

"It didn't feel as good as I wanted it to feel. I'm not real happy with the time," said Phelps, who nevertheless was fastest in the semifinals at 1:47.42. "There's still a lot left in the tank."

He hopes to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals -- relays included -- at the Athens Games.

Another top American, Natalie Coughlin, was the fastest qualifier in the semifinals of the 100 backstroke.

Kaitlin Sandeno became the first swimmer to stake claim to a second spot on the team with her victory in the 400 freestyle, one day after finishing second in the 400 individual medley. She posted a time of 4:08.07 to beat Kalyn Keller, whose older brother Klete has also made the team. They are the first siblings to make the same Olympic team since 1976.

"I can't wait to go with him," Kalyn said.

The gold and silver medalists from the 400 in Sydney failed to even qualify for the Olympics this time.

Brooke Bennett, the 2000 winner, was next-to-last in the eight-woman final. Diana Munz, who claimed silver four years ago, finished third -- more than a full second behind Keller.

Munz was lucky to even be in the final, having struggled to the ninth-fastest time in the semis. But Lindsay Benko dropped out to concentrate on the 200 free, opening up a spot.

Munz and Bennett swam in the two outside lanes because they had the slowest qualifying times -- an obstacle neither could overcome.

"It's upsetting, sad," said Bennett, who now will try to qualify in the 800, an event that also produced gold for her in Sydney. "The trials are the most unpredictable meet you'll ever go to. It's 10 times harder than standing on the blocks at the Olympic Games."

One of the best races of the trials could come Friday -- the men's 100 backstroke. A stalwart field emerged from the semis, led by world record-holder Lenny Krayzelburg and Aaron Peirsol, who has the second-fastest time in history.

The dueling backstrokers were 1-2 at the Sydney Games.

Peirsol had the fastest semifinal time at 54.22, while Krayzelburg, who has battled shoulder problems, settled for fifth at 55.05. Also advancing: 1992 gold medalist Jeff Rouse, who returned to the sport in 2002 after a 6-year retirement.

"It's absolutely the best (race) I'll ever swim in," Rouse said.

The women's 100 breaststroke could be just as thrilling. Advancing to Friday's final were former Olympians Amanda Beard, Megan Quann, Staciana Stitts and Kristy Kowal, along with four-time NCAA champion Tara Kirk.