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September 14, 1992 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-09-14

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Page 6- The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - September 14, 1992

NiYo
Continued from page 3
down, maintaining focus, while fine-
tuning his race techniques in the five
months prior to heading over to
Europe.
After a stop in Tampa, Fla.,
where most of the U.S. athletes re-
ceived a celebratory sendoff this
summer, Namesnik headed to
France. There he stayed, a short two
hours north of Barcelona, for two

weeks leading up to the Olympics.
Also competing in Barcelona
were sophomore teammate Gustavo
Borges of Brazil, and two incoming
freshmen - Marcel Wouda from the
Netherlands, and American Royce
Sharp. More importantly, though, his
own Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek
made the trip as a member of the
U.S. coaching staff.
"Half the guys don't have their
own coaches over there," Namesnik
said. "I've been lucky enough that
every international competition over

the last four or five years, I've had
him with me. That has helped
tremendously."
He needed all the help he could
get. Staring Namesnik in the face
every time he steps on the starting
block in international competition is
something more than just a world-
class field of swimmers. There is
Tamas Darnyi.
The 25-year-old world-record
holder from Hungary has not been
beaten in the 400 IM since the 1984
Olympics, and he has won every
Olympic and world championship
title since. This summer he added
Barcelona to his impressive list.
Namesnik settled for silver. Not a
bad thing to have to settle for,
though, an Olvmuic silver medal.
"It was a little disappointing, but
at the same time I was just happy to
get a silver medal," he said. "I would
have been severely disappointed if I

had finished lower than second."
For awhile, it appeared that
Namesnik had a chance to pull off
the upset. He survived the morning
preliminaries and qualified for the
final with the fastest time. Darnyi
was second.
Namesnik's goal in the final was
to push Darnyi, to let him know this
race would not be another simple
formality.
"I wanted to make him work
early on," he said. "He's never really
had anyone with him going into the
final leg."
Make him work, he did. Darnyi
began to look flustered as the two
swam the third leg, the breaststroke.
Repeatedly, he turned his head to
find Namesnik. Repeatedly, he
found him. And the pesky American
wasn't faltering.
They were even heading into the
penultimate turn. But then it hap-

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pened. A bad turn as he started the
freestyle leg. Namesnik hit the wall
in good shape, but his hand slipped
and he lost momentum as he pushed
off.
When he came up, Darnyi was a
half-body length in front. The
Hungarian cruised home in 4 min-
utes 14.23 seconds, an Olympic
record. Namesnik touched in
4:15.57, left to wonder, "What if ..."
"I knew I was in trouble," he
said. "With a guy like (Darnyi), if
you give him some room, that's all
he needs. I don't want to make ex-
cuses, though. I mean, who knows
what would have happened if I had
made a better turn? Maybe I would
have won, maybe not."
To be settled in Atlanta? Maybe.
Darnyi said after the race that he had
no intentions of retiring. Namesnik,
eyeing the 1994 World Champion-
ships, says he'll wait and see. For
now, he's seems relieved to be back
home.
"I just want to get back into
school right now," he said, "and to
get back to swimming with the team.
"That was maybe the hardest
thing about all of this. I missed out
on a lot of the team-building types of
things. I trained with the guys, but I
didn't travel to any of the meets --
that sort of thing."
The return of Namesnik, com-
bined with the arrival of Sharp and
Wouda, bolsters the already talented
Wolverine squad.
As he talks about goals - team
goals now - Eric Namesnik is re-
laxed. The relief is readily apparent.
For one year, he heaped pressure on
himself. That pressure came to a
head last month and then, suddenly,
was gone. And Eric Namesnik was
left with a wonderful experience and
lasting memories.
There was the afternoon he spent
at the White House with all the other

Olympic athletes, getting his picture
taken with the President, chatting
with White House press secretary
Marlin Fitzwater - and then eating
lunch while sitting on the floor in-_.
side. On the floor?
"They didn't know what to do
with us," he said. "There were 550
of us and they had everything set up,,;,
on the South Lawn, but it started tg;,
rain.
"So we all packed inside and we
sat there eating hot dogs and ham-
burgers on paper plates with plastic.
forks. And all the secret service guys
were just shaking their heads."
One for the scrapbook, right next
to the list of famous people met -
like sharing small talk with Evander.
Holyfield.
"That's when you realize, 'Wow,
this really is a big deal,"' Namesnik
said. "I mean, you're talking to these ,
people that are big stars, and they're,
actually more interested in you than
you are in them."
Namesnik missed the opening
ceremonies, opting to stay home.
rather than spend six hours standing
in the sweltering heat just two days-
before his event.
He missed out on many of the,
tourist attractions, he said, and didn't
get to see too many of the more
popular Olympic events, as seats
were hard to come by. Tickets from-.
Jennifer Capriati for some of them
tennis competition were the high,4
light of the two weeks.
Still, his Olympic experience was...i
better than most.
"I think it's something like 10,
percent of the athletes that actually
win a medal," said Namesnik, whose A
silver piece of history is tucked away
in a safety deposit box. "I'll always
have that. This is something that,
when I'm 60 years old, I can tell my
grandkids about. Nobody can ever.
take that away."

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