Hoff down to 1 last chance to make Olympics

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP)

Katie Hoff is close to watching the London Olympics from her couch.

The 22-year-old swimmer who won five events at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials is doubtful to even make the team this time.

Hoff finished 20th in the 200-meter freestyle preliminaries Wednesday, missing a spot in the evening semifinals by 0.32 seconds. A day earlier, she failed to advance out of the 400 free prelims when her coach said she was sick.

''They told me I had a stomach virus or something like that, but I don't want to make excuses. It just wasn't there,'' she said.

''Just didn't feel like I had my normal pop. I haven't been that slow in really any prelim all year. I was trying to go in very positive. The fact I was able to eat, I was optimistic. I gave it everything I had. It's really all I can do.''

In 2004, Hoff was the youngest U.S. athlete at the Athens Games. She competed in two events, and the enormity of the world stage got to her when she vomited on the deck before her first race.

Four years ago, Hoff was dubbed the female Michael Phelps after she won five events at trials. She went to the Beijing Olympics and settled for a silver and two bronze medals. She was fourth in two other events, including an American record in the 200 free that wasn't quite enough to get her on the podium.

She faded badly in the 800 free and didn't even make the final in her most disappointing race.

Hoff briefly considered retiring from the sport before deciding to switch things up. She left Yetter and switched to Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, but didn't click with his hard-nosed style. Then she moved from Maryland to Southern California to work with Sean Hutchison, but that didn't last, either. Now, she's back with Yetter, who was there for all her success.

''Coming in I was feeling great,'' she said. ''I was feeling confident and optimistic based off my training leading into it. I thought at least the 200 I had a really good shot, for at least the relay.''

Ariana Kukors has watched Hoff's career ebb and flow as one of her closest friends since they first began racing against each other at 12.

''It's hard to see when it's one of your best friends,'' she said. ''I know she has an amazing swim in her. It's hard to watch, but I support her and I'm here for her.''

Hoff seems more resigned than angry about her dwindling chances to earn a trip to London.

''It's not easy, right now especially, but it happens,'' she said. ''It happens to people all the time. Not much more I can do. Dwelling on it is not going to help me.''

Her only remaining event is the grueling 800 free Saturday, and she said she'll let Yetter decide if she'll swim it.

''That's one, especially with how well those girls are swimming, realistically it's not really in the cards,'' she said.

Hoff is uncertain about her future beyond the trials, although the idea of competing in World Cup meets appeals to her.

''That's something I've been thinking about,'' she said. ''Obviously, everything just happened, so I haven't thought that far ahead.''

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