New York Daily News

Evans sinks in bid for the Games


OMAHA — The public address announcer inside CenturyLin­k Center introduced Janet Evans, a 40-year-old mother of two, as the Golden West Swim Club’s representa­tive in Lane 2 before the sixth preliminar­y heat of the 400-meter freestyle Tuesday afternoon. The crowd then acknowledg­ed the greatest distance swimmer in history as she stepped into the time-sensitive starting blocks at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“It was so sweet,” Evans said. “I was actually more nervous than ever before the race. It was very different, just swimming to swim, feeling no pressure, just to be here to enjoy it.”

Reality drowned her hopes to qualify for the London Games in the race. Evans finished seventh in a field that boasted seven teenagers, fading over the final 200 meters. Fifteen years removed from competitiv­e swimming, Evans, who won three gold medals in the 1988 Seoul Games and five medals in all, maintained her omnipresen­t smile afterward, insisting that she was using the 400 as a warm-up for her run at the 800 freestyle team later in the week. She was applauded again as she departed the pool bank.

“I wish I would’ve gone faster. I didn’t feel very good,” Evans said.

“It was nice to get the jitters out. I think that my 800 will be better.”

Evans, the oldest of the more than 1,800 swimmers competing at the trials this week, finished 80th in the event, nearly seven seconds behind 19-year-old heat winner Danielle Siverling. Evans touched the wall in 4 minutes, 21.49 seconds, far from the worldrecor­d 4:03.85 she swam 24 years ago. That performanc­e stood for 18 years.

She was not the only American to miss the cut. Katie Hoff, who won the event at the trials leading into the Beijing Olympics in 2008, was expected to compete for a position on the team, but did not fare any better. She finished 20th with a time of 4:13.08. Her coach, Paul Yetter, said Hoff was sick from something she ate, but wanted to race anyway. She walked slowly to her warmdown swim without addressing reporters.

“I’ve never seen her that white,” Yetter said. “She wasn’t herself.”

There will be more racing for Hoff, but Evans’ middleaged push has its limits. She joked that her 6-year-old daughter, Sydney, should have come down to go against the younger field. Once the accomplish­ed Olympian who passed the torch to Muhammad Ali at the start of the Atlanta Games in 1996, she appeared ready to run one last relay with the likes of Allison Schmitt, the event’s top seed and Siverling, who passed her by.

“I think it’s just great she’s making a comeback at 40,” Siverling said. “(Swimming the 400 free) hurts when you’re 19. It hurts a lot more when you’re 40.”

 ?? Photo by Getty ?? Janet Evans struggles vs. younger and faster swimmers at Olympic trials.
Photo by Getty Janet Evans struggles vs. younger and faster swimmers at Olympic trials.

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