SWIMMING / THERESA MUNOZ : U.S. Will Compete in 25-Meter Short-Course Meet

American swimmers will plunge into a new distance this year, short-course events in a 25-meter pool.

The executive board of United States Swimming, the national governing body of the sport, voted earlier this month to send a U.S. team to the first FINA Short Course World Championships, Dec. 2-5 in Palma de Majorca, Spain.

Unlike the rest of the world, the United States swims short-course meets in 25-yard pools. But this meet, as are all foreign short-course meets, will be contested in a 25-meter pool.

Ten men and 10 women will be selected to represent the U.S. based on the fastest performances during U.S. Swimming's national championships July 26-30 at Austin, Tex.

Last month, Jeff Rouse, a former Stanford All-American, went to Europe for a FINA World Cup Series event and broke the world short-course record in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 51.43 seconds.

Rouse is the only American with a short-course world record, although Betsy Mitchell and Mary T. Meagher are recognized for posting short-course world "bests," the term given to times recorded before March 3, 1991, when FINA resumed recognizing short-course world records after a lapse of more than 30 years.

Mitchell's 59.89 is the world best in the 100 backstroke. She set the mark in 1987 under old rules that required backstrokers to touch the wall with a hand on turns. It is doubtful her record will last much longer with the faster, "no-hand touch" turns. Last month, Yoko Koikawa of Japan was timed in 1:00.25.

Meagher's "bests" were set in 1981--a 2:05.65 in the 200 butterfly and a 58.91 in the 100 butterfly.

No swimmer is within three seconds of her 200 mark, but Zhong Weiyue of China is inching toward the 100 mark. She had a 59.18 in January.

Meagher, a recent inductee to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, holds the oldest long-course world records--a 57.93 in the 100 butterfly and a 2:05.96 in the 200 butterfly. Both marks were set in 1981.

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Jon Sakovich pulled off a rare quadruple May 8 when he tied Carlton Bruner for the U.S. Swimming open-water five-kilometer national championship. A few weeks earlier, Sakovich had won the U.S. Swimming 15K open-water national title. Last month, he won the 200- and 400-meter freestyle events at U.S. Swimming's spring nationals.

Sakovich, 22, was born in Hawaii and grew up in the Northern Marianas, a chain of islands in the South Pacific that includes Saipan. He swam for Saipan in the 1988 Olympics, then in 1992 chose to compete for the United States. But he finished eighth in the trials in the 400 freestyle and did not make the team.

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Greg Burgess wound up with the least publicity of any medalist on the 1992 U.S. Olympic swimming team because he swam in the same event, the 200-meter individual medley, as Ron Karnaugh.

While reporters focused on Karnaugh and his attempt to compete despite the recent death of his father, Burgess unexpectedly won a silver medal.

Since then, he has done nothing but make himself known. In February, he set an rare American record of 1:43.97 in the 200-yard individual medley. And at the NCAA meet, the University of Florida sophomore lowered the mark to 1:43.52. Then, he had a 3:41.54 to break former USC swimmer David Wharton's American record of 3:42.23 in the 400-yard individual medley.

Swimming Notes

The United States team that will compete in the Pan Pacific Championships Aug. 12-15 in Kobe, Japan, will be selected at the U.S. national meet. Top finishers there are eligible for the Pan Pacific meet and the FINA World Short Course Championships.

Barcelona Olympic double gold medalist Alexander Popov of Russia is training in Australia because his coach found work there as head of the Australian national team. Popov spent a week last month at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he allowed scientists to monitor his system for a study they are conducting on swimming sprinters. . . . The 1996 Olympic pool to be constructed on the Georgia Tech campus will be indoors. After the Games, the 15,000-seat facility will be filled in and converted to a basketball arena. An outdoor pool will be constructed adjacent to the Olympic pool for warm-up and cool-down sessions during the Games. It will be enclosed after the Games for use by local swimmers and as a site for national meets.

After winning eight NCAA Division II national championships, Ernie Maglischo is leaving Cal State Bakersfield to take over the men's program at Arizona State. Maglischo, author of "Swimming Faster," succeeds Ron Johnson, who retired with a 114-50 record in 18 years. Johnson, 61, was co-coach of the Sun Devils' 1978 women's national championship team. His highest NCAA finish as men's coach was fifth in 1983. Maglischo, 55, has a career record of 165-59 and won Division II and Division III national titles at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and Chico State.

The executive board of U.S. Swimming has restored national team director Dennis Pursley's autonomy. Eight former U.S. Olympic coaches, including USC Coach Mark Schubert and former Trojan coach Peter Daland, requested the restoration of Pursley's powers after John Troup, performance development director in U.S. Swimming's new organizational structure, was put over Pursley. Pursley is now the director of the new national team division that will have the same status as the other divisions--performance development, administration and member services.

Coming events: June 17-20, Swim Meet of Champions, Mission Viejo; July 8-11, Los Angeles Invitational, USC; July 9-15, World University Games, Buffalo, N.Y.; July 24-26, U.S. Olympic Festival, San Antonio, Tex.; July 26-30, U.S. Swimming National Championships, Austin, Tex.

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