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Quann, Krayzelburg win gold, Thorpedo learns he's human

AP Sports Writer
September 18, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Lenny Krayzelburg fulfilled the ambition of parents who left the rugged Ukraine for America so their son could have a better life.

Megan Quann came closer to realizing her perfect race, visualized time and again while in bed, stopwatch in hand.

Ian Thorpe took Australia for yet another thrilling ride with every stroke, but revealed himself to be human after all.

Three swimmers, three poignant stories, were linked together Monday night at the Olympic pool where Krayzelburg did the expected, Quann did what she promised, and Thorpe did something different -- he lost.

In another double-gold day for the Americans, Krayzelburg overcame jitters about being a heavy favorite to win the 100-meter backstroke, while Quann pulled off her predicted victory over defending Olympic champion Penny Heyns in the 100 breaststroke.

Thorpe, the Australian sensation who had already had two golds, lost the 200 freestyle to Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband.

Krayzelburg followed his parents out of the crumbling Soviet Union in 1989 for the uncertain hope of southern California. Lenny was only 14, an up-and-coming swimmer who faced the eventual prospect of being drafted into the army.

``That wasn't an easy thing to do to move to a new country,'' Krayzelburg said. ``They had the guts to make that move.''

Oleg Krayzelburg is a gruff, demanding man who expects a world record from his son virtually every time he swims. But the father broke down in tears when he hugged Lenny afterward, a gold medal squeezed between them.

``We can go home now,'' the father said, a tender moment that surprised even Lenny.

Quann's victory over Heyns was justification for all those hours spent in the idle solitude of her bedroom, visualizing her perfect race.

``I have a stopwatch in my hand. My eyes are closed,'' related Quann, a high school junior from Puyallup, Wash. ``I can see the tiles on the bottom of the pool. I can taste the water. I can hear the crowd.''

Quann used a strong kick to win in 1 minute, 7.05 seconds. Heyns faded to the bronze behind Leisel Jones of Australia.

An entire nation was rooting for Thorpe, the 17-year-old Aussie superman who won his two golds in world record-setting races. Even when Van den Hoogenband broke Thorpe's 200 mark in the semifinals, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the ``Thorpedo'' would get it back 24 hours later.

Van den Hoogenband and Thorpe were dead-even as they made their final turn with 50 meters to go. The Aussie-dominated crowd overwhelmed the hall with its signature chant: ``Thorpey! Thorpey!'' Workers abandoned their posts, filling every vacant nook of the aquatic center to get a glimpse of this phenomenon

But the Dutchman was flying over the final 25 meters, stretching ahead of Thorpe in 1:45.35 seconds -- tying the 1-day-old world record. The Aussie finished second, nearly a half-second behind, while Massimiliano Rosolino of Italy took bronze.

``I'm not going to win every race, I'm not going to break every world record,'' Thorpe said. ``It just can't happen.''

Van den Hoogenband seemed overwhelmed by his victory, which gave his tiny homeland its second gold medal and second world record in as many nights. He talked of going into a trance late in the race and repeatedly described the whole experience as ``weird.''

``I was thinking halfway home in the final stretch, 'Oh, God, I'm going to win,''' he said. ``It was amazing to do this in his home nation, in his home city, in his home pool.''

Quann was a bit confused during the medals ceremony. Heyns nudged the youngster into the correct spot for podium picture-taking, then gracefully stepped aside to allow the youngster to lead the victory lap around the pool. Clearly, this appeared a passing of the guard.

But Quann won't be satisfied until she breaks Heyns' world record, 1:06.52.

``When I swim in practice, I see her in my mind,'' the teen-ager said. ``I just keep seeing that world-record time.''

Krayzelburg led all the way in the 100 backstroke, bettering the old Olympic mark of 53.86 set by American Jeff Rouse at Barcelona in 1992. But the winner was 0.12 off his own world record.

``You're measured in this sport by whether you win an Olympic gold medal,'' said Krayzelburg, who became a U.S. citizen in 1995. ``It's better than anything I've ever done in my life.''

Matthew Welsh of Australia won the silver and Germany's Stev Theloke claimed bronze.

Diana Mocanu became the first Romanian swimmer to win a gold medal, taking the 100 backstroke in an Olympic record 1:00.21. The silver went to Mai Nakamura, who earned Japan's first backstroke medal since 1960, and Nina Zhivanevskaya of Spain took bronze.

Tom Malchow of St. Paul, Minn., set two Olympic records in the 200 butterfly, eclipsing the mark in the morning preliminaries and sending it lower in the evening semifinals. He will go for his first gold medal Tuesday night.

``I'm getting faster and faster, which is a good sign,'' the world record holder said. ``The time is not a concern. I just want to get a gold medal.''

Article originally located at Yahoo! News

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