University of Virginia sophomore Ed Moses drove 200 miles from Charlottesville to College Park Tuesday night, about 14 hours before the start of a two-day FINA World Cup meet at the University of Maryland, determined to use the competition to prove his lightning rise through the world swimming ranks in the last 12 months has not been a fluke.
Moses, who attended Lake Braddock High, did just that at the meet's opening night yesterday, winning two gold medals in the 200-meter breastroke and the 50 breastroke--an event in which he raced alongside the reigning world-record holder.
"Without a doubt," said Richard Quick, 2000 women's Olympic team coach, "he's legitimate."
Moses' golden double was only one of several compelling story lines played out at last night's meet, the first stop of a 12-city international swimming tour that saw three American records set or tied and whipped a relatively tiny crowd of 900 fans--standing room only at the University of Maryland Campus Recreation Center Natatorium--into a screeching frenzy.
"It's all adding up," said Moses, who set the 1999 world best mark in the 100 meter breaststroke this summer just a year after devoting himself to swimming full-time. "It's going to be easier and easier as each big meet comes around."
Dara Torres, 32, competing in her first world meet since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, came from Palo Alto, Calif., bent on proving that her 17-month-old comeback after a seven-year absence from the sport was legitimate. Like Moses, Torres achieved a new measure of respect with a silver in the 50-meter freestyle and a bronze in the 200 free.
"Everyone else was expecting me to just swim okay," said Torres, who wants to become the first American to swim in four Olympic Games. "Myself, I was expecting to medal."
Torres barely missed taking the gold in the 50 free. She lost by seven hundredths of a second to reigning American record holder Jenny Thompson--who happens to be Torres' training mate at Stanford University.
"It was fun," said Thompson, a six-time Olympic medalist who won two gold medals tonight (the other in the 100 butterfly). "I race her everyday in practice and usually I don't win. It says a lot for women's sports that she can come back at age 32 and do as well as she's doing."
Arlington's Tom Dolan, an Olympic gold medal winner, wanted to put his surgically repaired knee to the test for the first time since he suffered a freak basketball injury in May. Dolan, who tore his right meniscus while playing in a pick-up game, received plenty of reassurance from his silver medal finishes in the 400 individual medley and the 400 freestyle.
"It just feels good to be back racing, no matter what place I get or time I do," Dolan said. "It was great just feeling the adrenaline, the competitive juices pumping through my veins again."
Dolan said he had no idea how fast he would swim here. He said is in the midst of a high-volume training routine that requires swimming six to seven hours a day. He relies on heavy training, he said, to make him fast for the really important events--such as next summer's Olympic trials. About two weeks ago, he said, he put in an eight-hour day of swimming in which he completed 26 miles.
American records were set in the 100 freestyle (48.19 seconds) by Jason Lezak of Irvine, Calif.; in the 50 backstroke (27.90) by B.J. Bedford of Colorado Springs; and in the 400 freestyle (3:42.16) by Chad Carvin of Mission Viejo, Calif. Bedford won another gold in the 200 backstroke.
Lenny Krayzelburg, Cara Lane of the University of Virginia, Neil Walker and Sabir Muhammad added to America's gold medal tally--12 out of 17 events. Seventeen more finals take place Thursday night to complete the competition, which has been sold out for nearly two weeks.
In the third race of the night, Moses competed next to Germany's Mark Warnecke, who holds the short-course world record in the 50 breast. In the 13th race, he raced alongside Tom Wilkens, who holds the fastest 200 breast time on U.S. soil. In both races, Moses took the lead early and held off his rivals with a strong finish.
After both races, he pumped his fist in the air when he read the scoreboard.
"I didn't know what to expect," Moses said. "I just wanted to get up and race my best against them. . . . I'm glad I got pushed to give my best time."
Moses will try to go 3 for 3 when he competes in today's 100 butterfly--which is actually his best event.
"Coming home the last 25 meters," Moses said, "I was saying to myself, 'A lot of people are watching, just finish the race and you'll win.' It feels pretty good when you touch and you have all those people yelling for you."