OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Amanda Beard’s bid to become a five-time Olympian won’t necessarily end if she fails to make the U.S. team for London.
”It wouldn’t be like, `OK, I shouldn’t continue swimming,’ ” she said Sunday night after her final tuneup for the trials in two weeks. ”It might fuel me a little bit more for making 2016 so I can have five in the record books.”
The 30-year-old Beard finished a close second in the 100-meter breaststroke in the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational two nights after she was disqualified in her specialty, the 200 breaststroke.
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Beard came off a long layoff to earn a surprise spot on the 2008 U.S. team. She didn’t medal in Beijing.
Since then she’s gotten married, given birth to a son, written a tell-all memoire detailing her battles with depression and self-image and returned to training in Tucson.
None of that has taken Beard’s focus off trying to join Dara Torres as the only female swimmers to go to five Olympics.
”I was actually talking to my husband earlier and he said you’re a thousand more times prepared for this trials than the 2008 trials, and it’s true,” Beard said. ”I’ve been training consistently for the last three years. In 2008, I wasn’t. I was kind of all over the place and probably had only two or three months of good training before those trials. I feel a little more confident coming into this meet.”
Rebecca Soni, the 200 winner in Beijing in 2008, is the prohibitive favorite to win again in London. Beard will be going for the second spot on the U.S. roster in the event.
She said she wants it ”pretty bad.” She also will swim the 100 at the trials, which begin June 25 and will be held in the same pool as the Swimvitational.
”Here’s the thing, I have to keep reminding myself it’s a sport, it’s entertainment, it’s supposed to be fun,” she said. ”If I don’t make the Olympic team, I can still look back at my career and think it’s still a pretty good job. I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. I’m going to come into this meet and go crazy and have fun and lay everything out there and leave it all in the pool.”
Ashley Wanland of the University of Wisconsin won the 100 breaststroke on Sunday, touching in 1 minute, 8.74 seconds – 0.12 seconds ahead of Beard.
In the featured men’s race, David Plummer edged 2008 silver medalist Matt Grevers of Tucson by 0.03 seconds in the 100 backstroke. Plummer, who swam at the University of Minnesota, beat his old Big Ten rival from Northwestern with a time of 54.61.
Plummer was sixth in the event at the 2008 trials.
”Matt and I put together a good race even though it wasn’t quite as fast as we wanted,” he said. ”It would have been nice to get under 54.”
Beard said she swam with confidence Sunday after disqualifying in the 200 breaststroke final Friday. It was ruled that her elbows weren’t underwater during the recovery portion of her stroke, and she was visibly upset when told she DQ’d.
”It’s no fun, but it’s one of those things that definitely make you stop, think and concentrate on little things,” she said Sunday. ”It happens to everyone no matter what level you’re at, so it’s better this meet than two weeks from now.”
Unlike Torres, 15 years older and attempting to make her sixth Olympic team, Beard said she can promise she won’t be swimming at the highest level of the sport when she’s 45.
”But I might continue swimming a little bit longer,” she said. ”I love the sport. It’s a great job. It allows me a lot of time with my son.”
Beard was visibly upset after getting disqualified from the 200-meter breaststroke on Friday night.
Her coach could only imagine how Beard, bidding to become a five-time Olympian, would react if it were to happen in two weeks at the U.S. trials.
”That would be a huge blow,” Eric Hansen said. ”This is a minor inconvenience that is going to motivate her. We’ll make some adjustments.”
The 30-year-old Beard swam a strong race in the finals, finishing more than 3 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, but was DQ’d because her elbows weren’t underwater during the recovery portion of the stroke.
Beard didn’t speak with reporters after the disqualification, but Hansen said it’s extremely rare to get DQ’d for making an improper stroke.
”You better be looking really close if you’re going to be calling that,” he said.
University of Arizona swimmer Carl Mickelson won the 200 breaststroke in a mild upset, beating former-UA swimmer Clark Burckle and current Arizona star and defending NCAA 100 breaststroke champion Kevin Cordes. Mickelson swam the final 50 meters in 34.50 seconds – more than a second faster than anyone else – and touched in 2:14.07.
Mickelson’s emergence casts him as another swimmer to watch in what’s expected to be a wide-open competition in the event at the trials.
”I considered myself a little bit of a dark horse going in,” he said. ”Getting up and racing guys like Clark and Cordes, it puts things in perspective for me that I can accomplish what I want to do in a couple of weeks.”
Roland Schoeman, who will be competing in his fourth Olympics at age 31, beat fellow South African Darian Townsend to win the 100 freestyle in a personal-best 49.07.
”What’s nice about this is that it’s a fantastic pool, and the entire setup is like the world championships,” Schoeman said. ”You can sort of dress rehearse for the Olympics.”
Beard, who first swam in the Olympics at age 14, made the 2008 U.S. team after spending a considerable amount of time away from the sport.
Her time of 2:28.23 on Friday easily beat University of Wisconsin swimmer Brittany Kimmitt’s 2:31.45. But Hansen said officials told him that her elbows rose above the water a couple times.
”She wasn’t real happy and she was in disagreement with the call,” Hansen said. ”You think about this as a tuneup meet, but the thing that makes her great is that she takes all these very seriously. So it’s not something you push away and cast off and say `no big deal.’ ”
Hansen said it’s his job to make sure Beard doesn’t dwell on the disqualification and let it affect how she performs at the trials.
”I would never bet against her regardless of what her training has been,” he said. ”Her training has been great. But even if it wasn’t I wouldn’t bet against her because she is so competitive.”