The Seoul Games / Day 3 : Beardless Biondi Starts His Seven-Medal Quest
Matt Biondi is hoping that a clean shave Monday will get a clean sweep of seven events under way in Olympic swimming.
Sporting a one-month growth of beard, Biondi finished second in his heat and second overall Sunday during the preliminaries of the 200-meter freestyle, the first of his seven events.
Biondi was timed in 1 minute 48.39 seconds after being overtaken in the final lap by Artur Wojdat of Poland. Wojdat, the world record-holder in the 400 freestyle, was clocked in 1:48.02.
Biondi’s coach, Nort Thornton, said he was worried when he saw that Biondi hadn’t shaved his face before his qualifying heat. “But I guess he knew what he was doing,” Thornton said.
“I’m right where I want to be,” said Biondi, who is planning to shave before Monday’s final. “The first 50 was real easy. After doing absolutely nothing for a week, sitting around, it was good to have a swim under my belt.”
Biondi, the first swimmer to reach the Olympics in seven events since Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in 1972, was to be joined in Monday’s final by Wojdat, world-record holder Michael Gross of West Germany, Duncan Armstrong of Australia and Troy Dalbey of San Jose.
Gross, known as “The Albatross,” because of his 7 foot-plus arm-span, was qualified in 1:48.55. He holds the world record (1:47.44).
Dalbey was the fifth fastest of the eight qualifiers with a time of 1:48.96.
Other than Biondi and Janet Evans of Placentia, the United States had a disappointing day in the Olympic Park pool Sunday. The 200 freestyle was the only one of four events in which the U.S. team had two qualifiers for the finals.
Evans, favored to win three gold medals, won her preliminary heat in the 400 individual medley in 4:43.04, 1.81 seconds faster than Daniela Hunger of East Germany but 3.46 seconds slower than the American record Evans set at the U.S. trials.
In the previous heat, Noemi Lung of Romania was timed in 4:41.96 and Kathleen Nord of East Germany in 4:42.92.
“I thought the race was easy and felt good although my breaststroke was a little off,” Evans said. “This was the first time I’ve seen Nord and Lung. I think they had better competition in their heat.”
U.S. coach Richard Quick was happy with the performances of Evans and Biondi.
“Both of them were fine,” he said. “They did what they intended to do, which was to get to the finals in good position. It looked like Matt didn’t want to push it all the way. He knew he was in good shape.”