Megan Quann was telling a cute little story about her nightly bedtime ritual.
The 16-year-old climbs in bed with a stopwatch, visualizing her race in the 100-meter breaststroke. The Quann-clocked time has been a consistent 1 minute 5.49 seconds--well under the world record of 1:06.52 by Penny Heyns.
That led a reporter at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials to wonder whether the venerable Heyns was doing the same thing at her home in South Africa or training base in Calgary, Canada.
Quann smiled sweetly.
"I think that she's going down," she said.
Quann, who won the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.26 Friday, kept smiling and kept talking at Indiana University's Natatorium.
"She's 26 or 27," she said of Heyns, who is 25. "I'm 16. She's got a lot ahead of her. I'm going to be there. I'm going to race my heart out and I'm going to win that gold."
Quann's elders--meaning almost everyone else--had studiously avoided any semblance of trash-talking about one another here. Bitter rivals were in truce mode, hugging and mugging for the cameras for almost three days. So, leave it to a slight teenager from Puyallup, Wash., to make the first verbal splash on Friday night.
Of course, it was a little different. Heyns, not being an American, was far away from the latest salvo. She did raise an eyebrow and make a few comments about Quann's brashness when the youngster broke Amanda Beard's American record in the 100 breaststroke at the U.S. Open in San Antonio in December.
Since then, Quann has been predicting a world record and has spoken about crossing out the names of swimmers on the world-ranking list in her room. She has taken out people in the water, on the list and in her dreams.
"I don't go out and race individual people, I go out there and race my own race," she said Friday. "It was good to win tonight. I don't really care if it's the fastest person in the world racing next to me or the slowest. I'm there to race. If someone has a pool to race in and clock to time me, I'll be there to race fast."
The soft-spoken Heyns probably won't be inviting Quann out for a beer in Sydney, the way she jokingly did in Atlanta with Beard. Heyns won two gold medals in the breaststroke events in 1996, beating Beard both times. They were friendly and Heyns said she wouldn't mind having a beer with the then 14-year-old Beard but pointed out that the teenager's parents might object.
A repeat of that kind of friendship seems doubtful after Quann started talking about her expected times in Sydney. She expects nothing to go wrong down under.
"I've been visualizing my races every night before I go to bed," she said. "I visualize it with a stopwatch in my hand and every night my goal is to go a 1:05.49. I just visualized it the other day, and my time was a 1:05.47.
"I'm having a blast. This is the time of my life. I just made the Olympics."
There was more. Quann has plans for the 200 breaststroke too. The preliminaries and semifinals are today.
"My stroke has gotten a lot better in the 200. I think I'm the second or third seed in the 200, and I plan on taking that one too," she said.
Quann said her confidence is a result of a sibling rivalry with her older brother, Michael. Her parents, Tom and Erin, are quiet and mild-mannered and, at times, seem almost stunned by her brashness.
"I think that's all hers," Tom Quann said, laughing.
Her parents and younger sister Laura were chatting during a break in the action in March at the Nationals in Federal Way, Wash., which is near their home. Quann broke her American record in the 100 breaststroke and finished second in the 200 breaststroke.
"When I read that she says she's going to break the world record tonight, I kind of cringe," Tom said. "But she goes out there and does her best."
Said Erin: "She's always been very determined. We have property at the Hood Canal and there are oysters all over the beach. Even as a little toddler, she would go crack an oyster open. She'd eat it and say, 'Where the butter?' "
Megan says she is a normal teenager, who likes to hike with her family near Mt. Rainier. But the quickest and best way to find out about her is the time-honored route . . . talking to 13-year-old Laura.
Laura had just come back from phoning a local radio station. She wanted to get the news out about the latest record but had ulterior motives, trying to get tickets for an upcoming 'N Sync concert in Seattle.
"She talks in her sleep," Laura reported. "I remember one time when we were camping, she starting swimming in her sleep, doing the breaststroke, and she said, 'I don't want to lose!'
"That was a couple of years ago. One year on Christmas, I heard her say, 'I love you, Santa.' "
That about says it all.
Santa has been replaced by a stopwatch.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
U.S. Olympic Trials
8 a.m. EVENTS
* Women's 100-meter freestyle heats
* Men's 200 backstroke heats
* Women's 200 breaststroke heats
* Men's 200 individual medley heats
5 p.m EVENTS
* Men's 200 breaststroke final
* Women's 100 freestyle semifinal
* Men's 200 backstroke semifinal
* Women's 200 butterfly final
* Men's 100 freestyle final
* Women's 200 breaststroke semifinal
* Men's 200 individual medley semifinal
OH, BOY, CAN HE FLY
Butterfly swimmer Michael Phelps, 15, is cutting his Olympic teeth at a tender age. Page 11
NOT THEIR STRONG SUIT
Unlike at the track trials, trash talking is not in vogue among the swimming set.