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Hoff's Olympic gold quest seems a little bit bumpy
16:36, August 10, 2008

With no expression on face, U.S. swimmer Katie Hoff waited quietly for her name to be announced first at the awards ceremony. Her name should have been announced last.

Coming off a historic three-win performance at last year's world championships, Hoff is expected to snatch the gold Sunday in the women's 400 meters individual medley (IM), an event which she held the world record. However, despite mounting expectations, Hoff settled for a bronze.

With a pretty solid start, Hoff ranked third after the first 100m butterfly but was edged to the fifth after another 100m backstroke.

In the breaststroke, which is her best stroke, Hoff managed to climb to the third but still unable to overtake Aussie swimmer Stephanie Rice and Zimbabwean Kirsty Conventry.

Standing on the right side of Rice on the podium, Hoff smiled and waved to the audience, among whom included U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife.

Facing swarms of journalists, Hoff said calmly she was happy with her first Olympic medal, even though a gold could be better.

Four years ago, Hoff made her Olympic debut and was so unnerved that she vomited on the pool deck. She didn't make the 400m individual medley final and finished seventh in the 200m individual medley.

"I wasn't mentally prepared for that," Hoff said before coming to Beijing. "The second time around is so much easier because you have an idea of how things are. Having experience gives me a huge advantage. I can't control my competitors, but if I have great swims, then I should do pretty well."

Her failure to secure the gold aroused speculations that same problem might have happened to her again. However, the 19-year-old talent denied it.

"I was feeling relaxed. It was a tough race, But I can't reallybe mad. I was only like a half-second off my best time, so I'm happy to get my first medal of the Olympics. I was trying, but I can't have it at the end," Hoff said.

Hoff trains at the same club that handled the early development of Michael Phelps, a guy she sees as "pseudo big brother", and shares his diverse program, specializing in the 200 and 400 meter individual medleys, 200 meter freestyle and the 800 meter free relay.

In the Beijing Games, with another four individual events and at least one relay to race, Hoff will be nearly as busy as Phelps.

Source: Xinhua

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