Swimming / John Weyler : Medals Behind Them, They’re Setting Records

Many of the biggest names in American swimming hung up their Lycra racing suits after the 1984 Summer Games, and the Olympians who decided to keep swimming are supposed to be suffering from post-Olympic blues or living in past glories.

It appears, however, that the best in the United States haven’t been lying around depressed or sitting by the pool telling Olympic tales this winter. They’ve been too busy churning out laps. And, as is usually the case in this sport, the work is paying dividends--in the record books.

Five California swimmers--Matt Biondi, Tom Jager, Mike O’Brien, Pablo Morales and Jeff Kostoff--combined to shatter nine American records this spring. Eight of the records were set in the NCAA Championships at Austin, Tex.

Biondi and Jager, both of whom swam only relays in the ’84 Olympics, battled in the sprint freestyles with Biondi coming out on top in the 100- and 200-yard events. The 6-6, 195-pound sophomore at Cal trimmed a full half second off gold-medalist Rowdy Gaines’ mark in the 100 with a 41.87 and also established the record in the 200 (1:33.22).


Biondi also had a record in the 50-yard freestyle . . . for a few minutes, anyway. Jager, a junior at UCLA, eclipsed Biondi’s mark (set in the preliminaries) with a 19.24 clocking in the finals. Jager, the only one of the five not raised in California, also took three-tenths of a second off gold-medalist Rick Carey’s mark in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 48.21.

USC freshman Mike O’Brien, who won the gold medal in the Olympic 1,500-meter freestyle, didn’t lose any ground in his battle to remain the premier distance freestyler in the United States. He lowered the mark in the 500-yard freestyle by two seconds (to 4:13.06) in the NCAA Championships and then set a record in the 1,000-yard event (8:47.38) a week later at the Phillips 66/USS Short Course National Championships at East L.A. College.

Stanford sophomore Pablo Morales won both butterfly events, as predicted, but he also set two records. Morales became the first person ever to go under 47 seconds (46.52) in the 100 and took a second off the mark in the 200 with a 1:42.85.

And Cardinal sophomore Jeff Kostoff set a record inthe 400-meter individual medley with a time of 3:46.54.


The women have not been nearly as impressive, though. The only U.S. gold-medal winners who remained active are Tiffany Cohen (Texas) and Mary T. Meagher (Cal). Cohen’s American record-setting 9:28.32 in the 1,000-yard freestyle was the only change in the women’s record book this spring.

A bill introduced by California State Senator Leroy Greene (D-Sacramento) designed to allow a high school athlete to train wherever he pleases and still compete for his school in CIF meets, will be reintroduced under a new form soon. The legislation (SB1351) was entitled “Pupil Participation in an Olympic Sport,” and it’s a good thing it didn’t make it out of committee, according to Mary Jo Swalley, the executive director of Southern California Swimming.

“We’ve been working toward a bill like this for a long time,” Swalley said, “but this one was worded in a way that it had little chance to pass. The education people would have fought it tooth and nail. Actually, it would have passed the committee but one of the senators had to leave for a speaking engagement.”

The bill was drafted from an example piece of legislation at the instigation of a Northern California couple whose son was kicked off his high school team because he wanted to train with his amateur club team.

“We’re going to rework it, and then Senator Greene will ask for reconsideration,” Swalley said.

Swimming Notes

If there was ever any argument about which U.S. pool is the fastest, this year’s NCAA men’s meet must have put an end to it. The Texas Swim Center, at the University of Texas in Austin, is only seven years old, but a slew of records have been established in the facility. . . . Rick Carey, who won the Olympic gold medal but pouted because he didn’t better his world-record time in the 200-meter backstroke, said there was “something left undone inside,” after winning both backstroke events at the short course nationals. He said he would make a more-definitive announcement at the long course nationals (Aug. 5-9 in Mission Viejo). Could Carey, who is fascinated with the martial arts, be considering making a bid for the 1988 U.S. Olympic judo team? . . . Swim coaches are raving about a new training aid that monitors pulse rates during workouts. The swimmer wears a device that looks like a wristwatch. It sends the information via radio waves to a unit on the pool deck. . . . Fourteen swimmers have been named to represent the United States in an international meet May 25-26 in Monaco. Kim Brown (Mission Viejo), Tami Bruce (San Diego), Tiffany Cohen (Mission Viejo), Jenna Johnson (La Habra), Betsy Mitchell (Marrietta, Ohio), Mary Wayte (Mercer Island, Wash.), Erika Hansen (King of Prussia, Penn.), Matt Biondi (Moraga, Calif.), Tom Jager (Collinsville, Ill.), Dan Jorgensen (Mission Viejo), Jeff Kostoff (Upland), Mike O’Brien (Mission Viejo), Matt Rankin (Portland) and Doug Gjertsen (Houston) were selected on the basis of their performances in the short course nationals.