- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia The Australian swimmers entered last night with more visions of gold. A night of stunning upsets left them seeing only red, white and blue.
The U.S. women took the pool away from the Australians at the Sydney Aquatics Center with a big upset by 21-year-old Misty Hyman and a historic gold medal for Jenny Thompson.
Thompson, 27, won as part of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay team and became the winningest female swimmer in Olympic history.
Hyman, of Phoenix, won gold in the 200-meter butterfly by beating world record holder Susan O'Neill of Australia known as "Madame Butterfly" who had not lost in that event in four years.
Hyman seemed as surprised as anyone. She touched the wall at 2 minutes, 5.88 seconds 0.70 seconds ahead of O'Neill and looked up in disbelief several times before it sank in that she had won the gold.
"I had to look at the scoreboard three times," she said.
Teammate Kaitlin Sandeno embraced Hyman, who let loose a flood of emotion.
"I started screaming and shaking," Hyman said.
Australian fans might have been screaming and shaking as well, for far different reasons. The Aussies basked for days in the glow of the success of Ian Thorpe and company (the "Thorpedo" has won three golds and a silver). But they were shut out of the gold last night medals that would have drawn them even with the Americans in the gold count.
The Australian 4x200 freestyle relay team, led by O'Neill, was heavily favored going into that race.
But the American women Samantha Arsenault, Diana Munz, Lindsay Benko and Thompson edged the Australians. They set an Olympic record of 7 minutes, 57.80 seconds, just beating the Australians and breaking the old mark by more than two seconds. The victory gave the American women four golds in two days.
The victory also gave Thompson another piece of history and put a golden finish on games that began with a bit of tarnish.
Thompson created controversy before the games with a provocative, topless pose (her fists covering her breasts) in Sports Illustrated. She finished last night as the winningest female swimmer ever.
The victory gave Thompson seven golds for her career, one more than German Kristin Otto. All seven of those golds came in relays. Her only individual medal was a silver in the 100 freestyle at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
"People shouldn't say anything about that," Munz said. "Who else has seven gold medals? That's incredible. She's the best anchor swimmer there's ever been."
Said Thompson: "I'm not thinking about gold medals. I'm trying to take these events day by day."
Hyman considered quitting competitive swimming in May because of sinus and performance problems. She had used an underwater fish-kick style that was banned in 1998. Hyman, forced to change her style, fared badly. U.S. coach Richard Quick talked her out of quitting, she qualified for the Olympic team and improved greatly at the pre-Sydney training camp.
"To come this far since May is really a credit to my support people," she said. "There are so many people who supported me, and it's been their love and prayers that got me here."
She won in the best race of her life. She had never broken 2 minutes, 9.08 seconds in the event coming into the games. But she led O'Neill by a body length before winning and discovering her astonishing time. "Oh, my God," she mouthed over and over.
Australians finished second in both races, and the pressure they felt to win gold in a swim-crazed country was apparent.
"I did the best that I could," said Petria Thomas, who won the bronze.
Said O'Neill: "I was trying to swim my best. That's the best I could do."
Michael Klim felt as bad as his mates on the women's team. The outspoken Australian finished fourth in the 100-meter freestyle, behind gold medal winner Pieter van den Hogenband of the Netherlands, Alexander Popov of Russia and the crowning embarrassment American Gary Hall Jr.
Klim and Hall warred before the games. Hall predicted the Americans would "smash them like guitars," and Klim called Hall a "drug cheat." When the Australians defeated the U.S. team in 800-meter freestyle relay on Tuesday, the swimmers mocked Hall by strumming on imaginary guitars.
Klim said last night he gave it "my best shot."
Australian Regan Harrison may have put it in perspective for his countryman. Harrison finished fourth in the 200-meter breaststroke, behind Domenico Fioravanti of Italy, Terence Parkin of Russia and Davide Rummolo of Italy.
"There is nothing worse than coming in fourth," Harrison said.
The article is based in part on wire service reports

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