Swimming / Tracy Dodds : Jager to Put Career (and World 50-Meter Freestyle Record) on the Line

As the first (and current) world record-holder in the 50-meter freestyle, UCLA’s Tom Jager has to be considered the favorite to win the first world title in that event at the World Swimming Championships in Madrid in August. But that’s not a sure thing.

Jager has lost in the shortest sprint a couple of times since he beat Robin Leamy’s world best of 22.54 seconds with a world record 22.40 at the U.S. Swimming Open at Austin, Tex., last December. Jager’s time was considered a world record because, earlier that day, it was announced that the 50 will be included at the World Championships for the first time.

The women’s 50-meter freestyle and the women’s 800-meter relay also will be held for the first time at the World Championships.

Those events have not been made Olympic events, but as UCLA Coach Ron Ballatore says, “This is a good sign.”


Ballatore said that Jager, who has graduated from UCLA and will be married in July, definitely will continue swimming through the World Championships trials and, hopefully, the World Championships. Whether he continues after that depends a lot on what happens in Madrid and on whether the Olympic Committee accepts his specialty as an Olympic event for 1988.

Jager was on the gold-medal winning 400-meter freestyle relay team in 1984 but has not won an individual gold.

Notes Tom Jager finished second in the 50-meter freestyle last weekend at the Seven Hills meet in Rome, where he won the 100-meter backstroke. UCLA teammates Craig Oppel, Brian Jones, John Sauerland, Diane Graner and Giovanni Minervini also swam in Rome. Minervini was named outstanding swimmer of the meet after he swam the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:03.2, the fastest in the world this year. The Bruins will begin tapering off for the World Championship trials in Orlando in three weeks (June 22-27). . . . UCLA Coach Ron Ballatore was serious when he guaranteed that Jager will swim at the trials but did not assume that he will make the team. Competition is very strong in U.S. trials and there are always surprises. As Pablo Morales said at the Mission Viejo meet last weekend: “In this country you can never look beyond the trials. There’s no doubt about that. It’s incredibly easy not to be a member of the U.S. national team. You have to put yourself in a frame of mind to approach the trials as an all-or-nothing situation.” . . . Dara Torres holds the world’s record of 25.61 in the women’s 50-meter freestyle. The German Democratic Republic holds the world record in the women’s 800 freestyle relay. . . . Jens-Peter Berndt, who defected from East Germany in January of 1985 and who attends the University of Alabama, has petitioned for accelerated citizenship so that he can compete for the United States in Madrid. His request was passed through a Senate committee and must be passed by the Senate and the House. He must have his U.S. citizenship before June 20, the day before the trials. . . . Olympian John Moffet of Stanford will study next fall at Oxford.

Debbie Babashoff, 16, the youngest of the Babashoff swimmers, is starting to come into her own. She had her career best (8:43.36) when she won the 800-meter freestyle at the Mission Viejo meet. She says that she is not trying to rival the accomplishments of her sister, Shirley (who won two gold medals and six silver medals competing in two different Olympic Games). She says she is pleased with her own accomplishments. . . . Second to Babashoff in the 800, with her own career best, was 14-year-old Janet Evans of Fullerton. She also had personal bests in the 200-, 400- and 1500-meter freestyles. Evans, who is 5-1 and weighs just 80 pounds, has had her stroke described as looking like “one of those wind-up bathtub toys” as she motors furiously against the longer strokes of bigger swimmers. She doesn’t mind. She said, “I have to turn it over that fast because I’m so small. I’ve tried getting my elbows up and lengthening in my stroke.” . . . If Evans does make the World Championship team, she would not be the youngest ever, but she would join a very elite group who made the team at that age. She said that her goal is to finish among the top three or four at the trials, but she’ll be trying to make the team. She’s no longer intimidated. She said: “At the East LA ’85 short course nationals, I thought it was so neat, really, really, neat to go to the meet and see those Olympians.” . . . The top two swimmers in each of 13 individual events and the top six swimmers in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles will make the World Championship team. Other top finishers will go to the Goodwill Games in Moscow, leaving almost immediately. . . . Highlights of the trials will be shown on ESPN. The tentative schedule for the delayed telecasts is July 7 at 9:30 p.m., July 13 at 1 p.m., and July 22 at 9 a.m.