When Elaine Breeden finished the 100-meter butterfly in second place Tuesday, she wasn't sure she was looking at the scoreboard correctly. She wasn't sure if she was an Olympian.
This time, she was sure of the outcome.
Breeden won the 200-meter butterfly finals at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Neb., Thursday night, assuring herself of a trip to Beijing as a member of the U.S. Olympic team. And as she hit the wall to finish the race, she knew exactly where she had finished.
”I could tell I was out ahead,“ Breeden said. ”I had my eyes closed for most of the race, concentrating on my stroke. But I was pretty sure I was out ahead.“
Breeden, a Lexington native and graduate of Trinity Christian Academy, came into the race with the fastest preliminary time among all participants. She was the fastest at the start, the fastest at each split and, most importantly, the fastest to the finish. Breeden touched in 2:06.75 after setting a blistering pace that had her more than two seconds ahead of the world-record pace at the halfway point.
Breeden slowed down over the final 100 meters but still held off 18-year-old Kathleen Hersey, who will also make her first Olympic appearance this summer. Hersey closed on Breeden over the final 50 meters, but she couldn't take away the lead.
”At this meet, I wasn't worried about time as much as I was place,“ Breeden said. ”I was hurting, but everybody was hurting at that point. It was just instinct after that.“
Breeden, who swims at Stanford, said her plan was to start fast and hold on to the lead at the end.
The win in the 200 assured Breeden a spot on the 26-member U.S. Olympic swim team after her second-place finish in the 100 butterfly put her on the brink of making the team.
The second-place finish qualified Breeden to swim in Beijing but didn't necessarily qualify her for the team, as the first slots go to event winners and the remaining positions are handed out to second-place qualifiers. If more than 26 swimmers qualify, the remaining positions are given to second-place qualifiers based on world ranking.
Breeden said coaches told her she was definitely on the team, which took pressure off in the 200 and allowed her to enjoy her last race at the trials.
Now, it's back to her home pool at Stanford to train with the Olympic team before leaving for Beijing.
The 200 will be a competitive race, Breeden said. It features world record holder Jessica Schipper of Australia and former world record holder Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland.
”Medaling is definitely the goal,“ she said. ”It's really tough competition. I'm just excited to see what I can do.“
From Thursday's U.S. Olympi c Swimming Trials:
200 back: Cory Chitwood (Ryle H.S.) finished 4th in semifinal heat to qualify 8th for finals; Shane Eliason (Wildcat Aquatics, Lexington) finished 4th in preliminary heat and failed to advance;
200 individual medley: Clark Burckle (Lakeside Swim Team, Louisville) advanced to Thursday's semifinals (results unavailable);
200 breast: Clark Burckle (Lakeside Swim Team, Louisville) finished 5th in finals
200 fly: Elaine Breeden (Trinity Christian, Lexington) won in the finals and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympics team
100 free: Caroline Burckle (Lakeside Swim Team, Louisville) finished 2nd in preliminary heat and failed to advance; Rachel Komisarz (UK; Lakeside Swim Team, Louisville) finished 8th in preliminary heat and failed to advance; Leslie Vanwinkle (U of L) finished 7th in preliminary heat and failed to advance
200 breast: Elizabeth Tinnon: (Lakeside Swim Team, Louisville) finished 8th in semifinals heat and failed to advance; Abby Macgregor (Triton Swimming, Louisville) finished 8th in preliminary heat and failed to advance; Anna Dishuck (U of L) finished 8th in preliminary heat and failed to advance
Herald-Leader Staff Report