FEDERAL WAY, WASH., JULY 20 -- Mike Barrowman of Potomac broke his 200-meter breaststroke world record by more than a second this evening in the most remarkable performance of the opening day of the Goodwill Games.
Barrowman came from behind to defeat Kirk Stackle of the United States and Sergio Lopez of Spain and American University to win the gold medal in 2 minutes 11.53 seconds. Stackle and Lopez tied for the silver medal in 2:12.24, which also broke Barrowman's old world mark of 2:12.89.
"This was my first meet back after a long, hot summer of work," said Barrowman, who is entering his senior year at the University of Michigan, but trains with the Curl-Burke Swim Club in Washington.
"Today, I was more out to prove to myself I could do it again after a year off. I think the pressure's a little off now."
Barrowman's feat overshadowed the opening medal competition of the Games, the 50-meter freestyle race between Olympians Matt Biondi and Tom Jager, the two fastest swimmers in history. Just as he did at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Biondi upset Jager in 22.10 seconds. Jager was timed in 22.31.
In the other key race of the evening, Janet Evans won the women's 800-meter freestyle in the relatively slow time of 8:28.47, well off her world record of 8:16.22. Evans was facing all her competitors from Seoul, but they've either gotten slower or she's gotten faster. She was not pushed during the race and won by nearly five seconds.
The 200 breaststroke here marks the sixth consecutive competition in which Barrowman has broken either a national or world record. The U.S. record holder since the summer of 1988, Barrowman has held the world record for a year.
He was expected to win a medal, perhaps gold, in the 1988 Olympics, but did not swim well, finishing a disappointing fourth.
From that moment, Barrowman has made it his quest to make up for that performance.
"After I got done in the Olympics, I felt I let down all the people who had been cheering for me," Barrowman said. "I spent the next year trying to prove to myself that I could break the world record and trying to give all those people something back. I hope to God the fire still burns inside."
He said that before the race. Once it began, there was no doubt.
Stackle, who swam for the University of Texas, went out very fast and led Barrowman by more than half a second after the first 50 meters. Stackle was swimming a world-record pace already, and the public address announcer, so excited at the prospects of a world mark, got confused and kept saying the leader was Barrowman.
Soon, he was right. Stackle, also a 1988 Olympian, led at the halfway point, but Barrowman had closed the gap to four one-hundredths of a second. Right after the turn at 100 meters, Barrowman took the lead, and never relinquished it.
Unlike the freestyle, butterfly or backstroke events, the breaststroke materializes over a longer time, in a pool clear of splashes and bubbles. So Barrowman's race was a thing to savor, for he pulled away to a half body-length lead in those last 100 meters. There was no doubt he would win. The question at first was if he would better his own world record.
Then, the question became, by how much would he break that record?
When he touched, he turned, as all swimmers do, to look at the big scoreboard on the wall behind him at the King County Aquatics Center, an hour's drive south of Seattle. When he saw his time, he pumped his right fist into the air and held it there for a long time.
"I expected someone to break the world record," said Stackle. "I didn't know who."
Ironically, Barrowman beat a former roommate and his workout partner in Lopez, a native of Barcelona who attends American University and lives in Washington.
"Every single morning, I have to get up and face the pressure of him chasing me," Barrowman said. "The pressure will be intense now with me being the best and him being the second best in the world."
Barrowman, the 1989 U.S. swimmer of the year, wonders how much longer the memories of Seoul will propel him. Before he left home for Seattle, he watched the tape of his Olympic race five times in one day. He had watched it only twice in the almost two years before that day.
"I could have gone with those guys," he said. "I didn't try. I was too scared, too green. I know that now. It's not the me I could have been."
This, now, obviously is the Barrowman, now 21, who was absent in Seoul.
"I hope it continues to haunt me," he said. "I hope it burns inside me more. Otherwise, I'm in trouble, I think."
In the 50 freestyle, Biondi and Jager might as well have been the only two swimmers in the pool.
"I closed my eyes when I breathed because I didn't want to see Tom," Biondi said.
"The key to beating Matt is swimming the perfect race," said Jager. "I swam the perfect race until my second breath, about 40 meters into the race. Then I started to scramble into the wall."
In other events, the U.S. men's 4x200 relay team beat the Soviets and East Germans in 7:16.26, Martin Zubero of Spain won the 100 backstroke in 55.68 seconds and Americans Leigh Ann Fetter and Janel Jorgenson won their races, the 50 freestyle (25.71) and 100 butterfly (1:00.98), respectively.
In volleyball, the Soviet women routed the U.S. 15-5, 15-8, 16-14. In gymnastics, the world champion Soviet Union men's team easily captured the team title.
Despite performing without injured world champion Igor Korobchinski and with a subpar effort from Valentin Mogilny, the Soviets led from the opening routine.
The Soviets were led by a pair of relative newcomers, Valeri Belenki and Vitali Scherbo. Valeri Lyukin, the only holdover from the 1988 Olympic champion team, also had a solid Goodwill Games debut.
The United States overcame a slow start behind 1988 Olympian Lance Ringnald, fellow New Mexican Trent Dimas and UCLA's Chris Waller to finish second. It was the Americans' highest finish in international competition since the U.S. men won the team gold at the 1984 Olympics.
Goodwill Notes: Montgomery County residents were unable to watch the Games on TBS last night because Cable TV Montgomery refused to pay an extra fee to show the 17 days of competition, a company representative said. A movie, fed to the cable system by Turner Broadcasting, was shown instead. The cable firm representative said his company will not show the Games at any time.