Meandering children and impatient coaches stood in line for up to an hour and a half to get autographed posters and a snapshot or two with U.S. and Soviet Olympic gold medalists Matt Biondi and Vladimir Salnikov at the American Swim Coaches Association convention Thursday and Friday at the Washington Hilton.

The swimmers made a short autograph appearance Thursday, then lectured coaches on training techniques yesterday morning preceding another autograph session.

But once the public appearances were made, Biondi and Salnikov met with the media and turned their attention to what Biondi called "swimming's uphill battle for fan and financial support internationally."

"I think the sport of swimming hasn't developed in the last 10 years the way other sports have," said Biondi, who won five gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and who holds the 100-meter freestyle world record. "It comes down to money. Swimming just hasn't been getting its share of the market."

He thinks that once businesses realize swimming's marketability, greater media attention and financial support will follow, opening new avenues for future Olympic swimmers.

"You're 21 or 22 and people think that you're over the hill," he said. "But that's not the case at all. We have to pay rent and put gas in the car and eat. We're working two jobs and trying to train and we end up quitting. But if the top swimmers were to get financially supported, much like track and field stars, the top swimmers could stick around and continue to train and compete."

There has been talk of developing a body of top international swimmers to lend a voice to the sport in hopes that bigger names will attract more attention. But at this point, it's little more than talk.

"The way I see the future is that the power of the elite athletes is their name," said Biondi. "When {fans} begin seeing the big names more, the kids will want to join the sport and once more kids become interested in the sport there will be a larger pool to pick from when it comes time to pick an Olympic team."