Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Swimming [Print without images]

Sunday, August 15, 2004
Thompson finishes fifth in 100 fly

By Steve Woodward
Special to ESPN.com

ATHENS -- Sunday night was de ja vu for American icon Jenny Thompson.

A day after earning her 11th Olympic medal since 1992 -- a silver in the women's 4x100 relay -- the Columbia University medical school student was back to work in the 100-meter butterfly, an event that did not go well for her four years ago at the Sydney Games where she placed fifth.

In Athens, Thompson, who is running low on time as her storied Olympic swimming career nears an end, was never a factor in the race and, once again, the fifth-place finisher in a field of eight.

"It was a great field," Thompson, 31, said later. "I credit everyone who was in it. It just wasn't in my cards."

Perhaps a minor consolation for Thompson, who will be the United States' all-time Olympic medal winner if she earns a 12th medal in one of her remaining two events here, is that Sunday's race clearly marked a generational shift. Her longtime Dutch counterpart Inge de Bruijn was the bronze medalist just four years after winning gold and establishing a world record in Sydney.

On a windy, suddenly cool night, de Bruijn's world record from 2000 of 56.61 seconds was not challenged, but she was upstaged by gold-medal winner Petria Thomas of Australia and runner-up Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland.

"I don't know if I am happy or disappointed," de Bruijn said later. "I wanted gold, but bronze in an Olympics is great, too."

Thompson, who endured the death of her mother, Margrid, last February from cancer, un-retired from the sport in 2002 but committed herself to enjoying the process of training and competing, not to chasing results and records.

"I felt good going in," Thompson said after the 100 butterfly. "I did all I could have done to prepare. I guess my (butterfly) isn't where it was last year."

Friday's 50-meter freestyle is Thompson's last shot at the one achievement that has eluded her all of these years -- an individual event Olympic medal. All 11 of her career medals, including eight gold, have come in relay events. Fittingly, her career is expected to conclude with yet another relay medal bid in Saturday's 4x100 medley.

Thompson always says that her collection of medals is symbolic of excellence, regardless of what event they've come from. Kids, she says, never ask her if she won them in relays or individual events.

"They just know it's a gold medal," she says.