- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2008

BEIJING | Kate Ziegler clinched her standing as a glass-is-half-full person following her Olympic debut Sunday night at the Water Cube.

Owner of the sixth-fastest 400 freestyle time in the world this year, Ziegler couldn’t qualify for Monday’s final, finishing fifth in her heat and 14th overall, nearly five seconds slower than the eighth and final qualifier.

Yet minutes after the race, the Great Falls native was bounding around the corner with a big smile, half knowing that her signature race (the 800 freestyle) is still to come and she’s officially an Olympian.

“You can see by the time [of 4:09.59] it wasn’t any good, but I had this realization before the race of ‘I’m swimming at the Olympics,’” she said. “While I’m disappointed, that was the coolest experience of my life.”

Ziegler finished her trials race in 4:03.92. The winner that night was Katie Hoff, who broke Janet Evans’ 20-year-old Olympic record in her heat race (4:03.17), only to see Italy’s Frederica Pellegrini (4:02.19) break it in the very next race.

“I knew it would be tough to turn around, but that was my best prelim swim, so I’m happy,” Hoff said. “I think I’m starting to prove to myself that I can handle the nerves.”

In the final, Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain out-touched Hoff for the gold medal. Hoff, who led for much of the race, got the silver - 0.07 seconds behind Adlington.

Hoff won her first Olympic medal - a bronze - early Sunday in the 400 individual medley.

“It’s definitely a little pressure off, but getting a bronze means you’re still hungry to get a little higher,” she said after the semifinal.

In other races in the morning session Tuesday (Monday night EDT), the world records continued to fall.

In the 100 butterfly, Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima broke American Brendan Hansen’s record, winning the gold in 58.91 seconds. Hansen was fourth. Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry broke Natalie Coughlin’s record in the 100 backstroke semifinals (58.77 seconds). Coughlin and Margaret Hoelzer advanced to the finals.

Christine Magnuson won silver in the 100 butterfly race won by Australia’s Libby Trickett.

“I just came in with the attitude that anybody is beatable,” Magnuson said. “I did what I practiced.”

In the 200 freestyle, Peter Vanderkaay and Michael Phelps qualified first and fourth, respectively. Rebecca Soni (second) and Megan Jendrick (seventh) qualified in the 100 breaststroke. Matt Grevers (second) and Aaron Peirsol (fifth) advanced to the 100 backstroke finals.

One day earlier, Phelps returned to the pool after his world record-setting 400 IM win and took it easy, qualifying fourth in the 200 freestyle semifinals. The men’s 4x100 meter relay team set a world record in its heat race.

In her race, Ziegler quickly lost sight of the leaders.

“I think I tried to tell myself I wasn’t nervous, but I was,” she said. “I went through a mid-taper period slump, but the last two days I felt great. Today I got back in the water, and I was like, ‘Ugh, I’m tight and I’m tense.’ That’s why I think it was nerves.”

Ziegler returns to action Thursday for the 800 freestyle.

“I’m not going to look back at it and remember the time,” she said. “I’m going to tell my kids, ‘Hey I swam at the Olympics.’ I’ve gotten my first race out of the way, and I’ll put this behind me and hopefully do better in the 800.”

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