Women's Swimming & Diving Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
OMAHA, Neb. -- The night started with a young Gator and ended with an old one.
Both with huge smiles on their faces.
"This is amazing," UF junior Elizabeth Beisel crowed after finishing second in the women's 200-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials and locking up a second spot on the American squad. "After the first one, this is icing on the cake."
That sentiment was pretty much echoed my Dara Torres after the 45-year-old wunderkind tore to a time of 24.80 in the 50-meter freestyle semifinals -- shaving a fifth of a second off her preliminary post about 10 hours earlier -- and advanced to Monday night's championship heat with a chance to qualify for an American-record sixth Olympics.
"I'm in the finals -- and I'm ecstatic!" Torres said with a huge grin after her fastest race since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2009 and knee surgery in 2010.
She'll have to finish first or second tonight, which certainly is possible. Her third-place time was just eight one-hundredths of a second behind second-place Christine Magnuson's 24.72. Jessica Hardy, the favorite in the event, came in at 24.56.
In the morning prelims, Torres admittedly did not push herself to the max, citing her middle-age struggles with recovery. She gave a little more Sunday night, but still held a little back.
"It wasn't all I've got, but my coach wanted me to use my legs a little more than I did this morning ... to make sure I got in," Torres said. She got in, all right. Rather easily. Much like Beisel.
Six nights after winning the 400-meter individual medley and securing a place on her second straight Olympic team, Beisel went into the 200 back knowing the race was almost certainly for second behind American record-holder Missy Franklin.
"Getting that first one out of the way and making the team the first night, that was a definitely a relief," Beisel said of the 400 IM, an event in which she was the 2011 world champion. "It was like taking 1,000 pounds off my chest."
Without that must-win stress weighing her down, Beisel could swim a smart race.
Franklin got out to a cushy lead, but Beisel positioned herself in second place and held it for the race's balance.
"I know it would come down to the last 50," she said. "I still had something in the tank."Franklin touched at 2:06.12, Beisel at 2:07.58 and third-place Elizabeth Pelton at 2:08.71.
Teresa Crippen, who just wrapped up her senior season with the Gators, finished sixth at 2:11.79.
It was a great start for Florida fans in the house. Great finish, too.
Five races later, Torres stole the show, along with the hearts of an adoring and admiring crowd at CenturyLink Center.
"She gets better every race, it's just amazing," U.S. and UF coach Gregg Troy said. "And she's a factor [Monday] night."