Her Beijing Ticket Punched, Ziegler Isn't Quite Done Yet

The United States' best swimmers dive in at the Olympic trials in Omaha to try to live out their dreams and break records.
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 4, 2008

OMAHA, July 3 -- Kate Ziegler is already going to Beijing for her first Olympics, and for that, the Great Falls native is beyond grateful. Ziegler finished second to Towson's Katie Hoff in the 400-meter freestyle earlier this week at the U.S. Olympic trials. She said that accomplishment frees her mind going into her best event, the 800 freestyle, in which she will compete in preliminary heats Friday morning.

"It's nice to have that security," she said. "That's a relief."

The odd part for Ziegler: The strength of her entire program is the 1,500 freestyle, which is not held for women at the Olympics.

"It kind of stinks it's the event I hold the world record in, and I'm pretty solid in, and I can't have a chance at winning that gold medal," Ziegler said. "I can't do anything about it."

Ziegler's last competitive swim came Monday, but she has trained heavily in the ensuing days. She does not "taper" -- or cut down on her training distances as competition approaches -- as much as most swimmers here do. She logged 10,000 meters in the pool Saturday, two days before she competed, and 8,500 meters Sunday.

"I would want to be one of those swimmers who would be like: 'Let's just do 1,000. Let's just float around,' " she said. "But I've only once tried a longer taper. It didn't really go that well. We have this kind of formula that works. Unfortunately, it's a lot of yards."

Ziegler's main competition in the 800 freestyle is again expected to be Hoff, whose strength has traditionally come at shorter distances. Ziegler's best time in the event (8 minutes 18.52 seconds) came at last year's world championships.

Another Final for Phelps

Michael Phelps swam only heats Thursday, but he did qualify for Friday's final in the 200 individual medley, finishing second behind Ryan Lochte in the semifinals. He has only four of his 14 races remaining -- the final of the 200 IM, and the prelims, semifinals and final of the 100 butterfly.

"At this point, it's just like adrenaline," Phelps said. "It doesn't matter how tired you are. I only have two more events, and they're fun events." . . .

Garrett Weber-Gale won the 100 freestyle over 2004 Olympian Jason Lezak, though both qualified for the team. Lezak swam a time in the preliminary heats that was .08 of a second off the world record held by Alain Bernard of France (47.50 seconds), and was nearly half a second slower Thursday night.

"I don't care about the world record," Lezak said. "Who knows how long it would last?"

Beard Pulls a Fast One

Four years ago, Amanda Beard won gold in the 200 breaststroke in Athens. Since then, she has focused far more attention on her exploits out of the pool -- particularly, posing for magazines including Playboy -- than on swimming.

Thursday, though, Beard posted a fast time of 2:25.43 in the semifinals of the 200, second best behind Rebecca Soni. "I really am stoked on that time I made," said Beard, who said she hadn't swum that quickly in the event since 2004. . . .

Elaine Breeden, 19, of Lexington, Ky., won the 200 butterfly in 2:06.75. She'll be on the team with 18-year-old Kathleen Hersey, who was second. . . .

Ryan Hurley, 22, a University of Virginia graduate who is from Potomac, finished seventh in the final of the 200 breaststroke.

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