Anyone expecting domination by the U.S. swimming team in next month's World Championships is likely to be disappointed, say the team's coaches.
The final members of the American teams were determined Friday at the U.S. National Championships, which concluded Saturday with two non-Olympic events not part of the competition at the World Championships in Rome.`We're definitely the underdogs going into the World Championships. On paper, we have two people that have a chance to win world championships in individual events," said Stanford coach Richard Quick, who will be the head coach for the women's team in Rome.
"As far as chances to get the gold medal, we're looking at 400 IM (individual medley). We have the capabilities to go 1-2," said Michigan's Jon Urbanchek, head coach of the men's team. "Jeff Rouse (the world record holder) is obviously in good position to take care of the 100 backstroke. We're going to have to settle down for seconds and thirds in many of the other events."
Quick said Allison Wagner, who won both individual medley events and the 200-meter breaststroke during this past week's competition at the Indiana University Natatorium, has a good chance to capture the gold medal in both medley races.
Janet Evans, who brought her total of national championships to 42 Saturday by winning the 1,500 freestyle in 16 minutes, 24.24 seconds, was given the favorite's role at Rome in the 400 and 800 freestyle events by Quick.
The 22-year-old Evans, winner of four Olympic gold medals and the holder of world records in the 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle, needs six more national titles to match the record held by Tracy Caulkins.
Evans took the lead on the opening 100 meters and quickly took command of the race, finishing more than 12 seconds ahead of 14-year-old Brooke Bennett.
"I didn't feel I wanted to kill myself in the mile two weeks before the world championships," said Evans, who set the world record of 15:52.10 in the 1,500 on March 26, 1988. "I looked at it more like today was the first day of my workouts, and this was my quality workout of the day."
Quick also believes Olympic gold medalists Nicole Haislett and Jenny Thompson can improve on their times here to contend for titles during the competition scheduled Sept. 5-11.
Haislett, who won the 100 free at the last World Championships in 1991, failed to qualify for the race in Rome when she finished in a tie for second with Angel Martino and then lost a swimoff. A triple Olympic gold medalist at Barcelona, the 21-year-old Haislett failed to win an individual event at the National Championships and earned a trip to Rome by finishing second in the 200 freestyle and 200 medley.
Thompson was competing with a plate and seven screws inserted during June 3 surgery after she broke her left forearm on a waterslide, but still managed to win the 100 free and 100 butterfly races.
"When you have the defending Olympic champion in the 200-meter freestyle . . . I certainly think Nicole has a chance and will be better in three weeks. And I'm hoping that Jenny Thompson is significantly better in three weeks," Quick said. "Overall, you'd have to say we're in a challenging position, not only versus the Chinese, but the rest of the world.
"We're kind of the underdogs, but I don't mind that role. We just need to respond to the challenge."
"The way I'm looking at this meet is I don't care what the rest of the world does, I never look at what they do," Urbanchek said. "I see what we have, what we can do with our arsenal of great athletes. What the Europeans do, what the Australians do, it really doesn't matter."
Still, Urbanchek likes the makeup of the men's team he believes will be the nucleus of the U.S. squad that competes in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics.
"We have a good combination of older guys with maturity, and we've got the rookies coming on. . . . Gary Hall, Tom Dolan, Chad Carvin. These guys could surprise us," he said.
Dolan, an 18-year-old from Arlington, Va., who qualified for Rome by finishing second in the 400 medley and 400 freestyle races, captured the 800 freestyle Saturday in 8:04.35. Sixteen-year-old Mike Wasgatt, representing the Fort Collins Area team, was second in 8:13.16.