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February 19, 2001 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-02-19

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - February 19, 2001- 38

JOURNEY TO OLYMPIC GOLD
BY STEVE JACKSON DAILY SPORTS WRITER

DAVID

DEN HERDER

Ithis past September, fresh-
man Samantha Arsenault '
gave a golden performance
on the world's biggest stage. From <.
half a world away, her actions cast
a light on Michigan swimming for
all the world to see. Not only did
she. win a gold medal in the 800-
meter freestyle relay, but her open-
mg leg also contributed to a new
Olympic record. The mark of
7:. ;7.80 broke the record previous-
y held by the United States' 1996
quad by over two seconds.-
"When you look back, the
memories just get stronger,"
Arsenault said. "But for me, the
. ;ourney was just as emotional and
just as important. A I
EARLY TRAINING
Arsenault began her days in the
Fool at the local YMCA program
,t the tender age of eight. She
.redits the time spent watching her
eider brother's meets as the cata-
lyst for her career. This year,
Christopher Arsenault has posted
the top conference times in five Samantha Arsenault
separate events for Massachusetts. Michigan as one oft
Samantha continued to race and
train near her hometown of Peabody, Mass. until she
turned 16 and decided to adopt a more intense pro-
gram.
The new facility was a full hour away from where
the Arsenault family lived. She even switched high
schools to accommodate her training.
With two practices daily, Arsenault would often
spend the night with friends that lived closer to the
pool, only returning home a few times per week.
"It was killer on my family and myself," Arsenault
said.
Even after the logistics of balancing home, school
and traveling time had been managed, Arsenault had a
tremendous amount of swimming to deal with.
Enter coach Don Lemieux.
Sixty miles away in the town of Gardner, Mass.,
coach Lemieux, a former Mr. Universe contestant,
runs a swimming club that has produced a number of
Division I caliber swimmers.
But Arsenault would prove to be his best disciple
yet.
Under the cold, dark backdrop of his tiny five-lane,
25-yard "dungeon pool," Lemieux lit a fire under
Samantha.
Lemieux said that truely driven athletes don't need
,special facilities.
"The atmosphere of that place, and coach, really
helped me find the fun in swimming again," Arsenault
said.
And the long hours of training and technique work
paid off for her.
Coach Lemieux "knew I had the talent, but it took
*awhile for me to believe that I could get to this level,"
Arsenault said.
After committing to Michigan in December of 1998,.
Arsenault decided to defer her education and concen-
trate on her dream - the Olympic Games.
"Her family relationship is so tight," said Lemieux,
who still speaks regularly with Arsenault. "They were
so supportive with her traveling, even letting her take a
whole year off to train."

t did what she does best this weekend - win. The freshman
its most highly-touted recruits in recent history and has lived
OLYMPIC TRIALS
That year passed quickly as Samantha geared her
entire training regime around one meet - the Olympic
trials.
"It was kind of scary, because you put all that work
in, and it's a one-shot deal," Arsenault said. "But I loved
those pressure situations. The pool is all decorated, and
the officials are in sync. It just makes me feel better in
the water."
Arsenault came in believing that she would win her
event, the 200-meter freestyle.
And after the preliminary races, she appeared well
on her way - seeded first heading into the final.
That night's excitement, coupled with seeing her
friend and fellow New Englander Eric Vendt qualify,
kept Arsenault aAke into the morning hours.
But when morning came, she was all smiles-
relaxed and looking to have fun.
"I was calm going into that final race. I had confi-
dence because of how hard I trained," Arsenault said.
She started out the race in a fury of pure adrenaline,
and, consequently, she didn't have the energy to bring
it home.
"I swam it so stupidly," she said. "I looked up after I
touched and saw 'third' on the board, and I was instant-
ly upset and really disappointed."
Only the top two qualified individually for the event.
But, her feelings changed quickly as the reality hit
her - third place was good enough to send her to the
Olympics in the 800-meter relay.
"They played the anthem and wrapped us in the
Olympic flag. It was an amazing feeling," she said.
When it was all over, Arsenault flew back home to
Massachusetts. She had just two days to accept con-
gratulations and pack her things for the adventures
ahead.
"There were so many tears, happy and sad. It was
such a special time," Arsenault recalls.
Almost before she could realize what was happen-
ing, Arsenault was whisked off to Pasadena, Calif. for
a month of training with the U.S. Olympic Team.

SYDNEY
Following that month of training
and team building in California,
Arsenault again boarded a plane -
this time to Australia and the Olympic
Village.
Once in Sydney, Arsenault had no
time for sightseeing. Instead, she
returned to her training in quiet
obscurity. ,
"They did a great job keeping us
focused," Arsenault, said. "We didn't
really realize where we were until it
was all over.
"Watching in '96, it was so differ-
ent because I had to prepare for my
race. I was nervous. I was confident.
You really need to just live for that
moment"
One notable break from that con-
centration occurred during the 200-
meter freestyle final the event that
Arsenault came up short in at the tri-
als.
"I watched, and I couldn't help
being disappointed. I know I could
TOM FELDKAMP/Daily have competed with them," she said.
came to But that disappointment didn't
up to the hype. keep Arsenault from scoring a per-
sonal best in the 800-meter relay pre-
liminaries - good enough to secure her position as the
opening leg for the Olympic final.
The race itself was memorable, but it wasn't until
after she emerged from the water that the real drama
began.
"Watching the three other girls finish, it was such a
rush. We had always competed against each other but we
bonded so well for that race," Arsenault said.
The race concluded and the numbers flashed up on
the board - Arsenault and her teammates were
Olympic champions.
She was then immediately rushed down for drug test-
ing, but all she could think of was seeing her family.
After an all-too-brief meeting with the family came the
always-emotional national anthem and press conference.
"It was so much better than I ever could have
dreamed," she said. "The more you look back, the
stronger those memories get. And you realize these are
some of the best days of your life."
THE COLLEGE YEARS
At this point, Michigan was a month into its fall
semester. Chemistry class and dorm life were calling
Arsenault's name.
After adjusting to living on her own, Arsenault's first
season in the pool for Michigan took an unexpected turn
in Hawaii over winter break when she sustained a shoul-1
der injury - the first serious injury of her career.
Arsenault now had to refocus and re-evaluate her
goals.
"I wanted to swim on the World University team,"j
Arsenault said. "But now my body is telling me 'stop."'
Samantha withdrew from the World Championship
trials to concentrate on helping Michigan to a Big Ten
team title.
After sacrificing personal glory for her team, it was
fitting to see Arsenault finishing the final relay and
securing the Big Ten championship for the Wolverines.
"I'm so proud of us," she said. "This tops everything.
(It's) the icing on the cake."
The world will miss Arsenault this year, but she will
return - her focus already set on Athens, 2004.

Ganhamsn4
An old punchline, a new setup:
Why doesn't Ohio State have a
varsity water polo team?
Because the horses keep drowning.
There you go. Never see a game in
Michigan's inaugural water polo season,
and at least you have another zinger for
the Buckeyes.
It is easy to - overlook - this team,
even as a Wolverine zealot. The rafters of
Canham Natatorium are veiled by count-
less championship banners. None of
them contain the words "swimming" or
"diving" only because they don't need to
- it is assumed, and it should be, that
they represent Michigan's storied tankers.
But poolside, under the rows and rows
of arrogant blue banners, Amber Drury-
Pinto is pacing, clenching a can of Pepsi
that she hasn't taken a sip from in 20
minutes.
She's working to change Canham's
image a bit - trying to make it the
home of Michigan swimming - and
Michigan polo. Right now, her team is
losing to No. 1 Stanford, 9-2.
"Get it in!" Drury-Pinto pleads,
coaching her team to "feed the hole"--
pass to the two-meter. Her players in the
water can hear only half of everything
she screams, and the Wolverines will e
helpless to resist two more Stanford
goals before the final buzzer.
Still, the weekend is a victory for,
Drury-Pinto and a big step for the
Wolverines. The first annual Michig-m
Invitational is going off without a hiich.
The top-ranked team in the country is in
. town, along with its two Olympians~ So
is Slippery Rock, the original varsky pro-
gram. So is Indiana, the only other-varsi-
ty team in the Big Ten, and Michigan's
soon-to-be archrival.I
To think, there wasn't even supp osed
to be a water polo invitational in,
Michigan this weekend. The tearrs origi-
nally planned to compete in
Bloomington, but were forced to, relocate
on account of the women's swinaning
Big Ten Championships.
Another opportunity seized tay Drury-
Pinto. If polo is a small world, then
Canham for the weekend was a perfect
microcosm - and a serendipkous home
debut for the Wolverines.
But things were not always.so exciting
on the Ann Arbor polo scene.The
Michigan women have spent imany sea-
sons before this winter competing on the
intercollegiate club level - contently,
many of them still claim.
"All the support we get now," says,
senior captain Christy Lille, "that*'th'e
biggest difference. It's great:"
Lilley, a graduate of Ann Arbor
Pioneer, can recall a time Ni the not-too-
distant past when the worwn's polo club

*4
ew residents
woui cram six Wolverines to a hotel
roor on road trips to curb costs, and
whfn players needed part-time jobs just
to cover the cost of playing.
Mother senior captain, Melissa
Kjala, also sees changes - some on a
much broader scale. In a sport once
tlought of as "something swimmers do
in the offseason to stay in shape," polo is
{coming into its own before her eyes.
"In high school we could either do
yards or play polo," she recants. That
thigh school - Ann Arbor Huron - set
her opposite Lilley as an aquatic archri-
val. Today, they co-captain Michigan's
first varsity water polo team - in the
first year that the NCAA will sponsor a
championship for women's water polo.
The final four of that championship
- the inaugural final four - will be
held at Stanford in May. Drury-Pinto
says Michigan's goal is to be there. Lilley
and Karjala say it's realistic.
As the clock expires at Canham
Natatorium, Stanford coach John Tanner
applauds his players' efforts, Olympians
and all. The final score is Stanford 11,
Michigan 3.
Drury-Pinto looks briefly to the ceil-
ing. The arrogant blue banners are
unavoidable from her view, but she is
focusing for the moment on infinity.
"I'm very impressed with what
Michigan has done," says Tanner after
the game. "Usually I would say, 'give it
four or five years,' but the way things
have progressed, it could be three..."
As Tanner waits for his team to leave
the natatorium, another arrives - the
Michigan women's swimming team-has
returned after winning the Big Ten title
- in Bloomington. The polo team greets
the swimming team at the door with a
spirited chorus of "The Victors" This
will mean another banner.
Senior swimmer Jen Crisman, having
defended her backstroke title, is giddy to
examine the new Michigan water polo
swimsuits, which have recently arrived in
the mail. In two weeks, she'll put one on
herself.
The Wolverines have been playing
water polo for years at Canham
Natatorium. The punchline is the same.
But this season, the, setup is complete-
ly new. And as Drury-Pinto watches her
Wolverines cheer their Canham house-
mates, she can do nothing but smile. In
four years, she'll have the equivalent of
eight full-ride scholarships with which to
work.
Does that mean this program is on the
four-year pldn?
"I hope not," she says with a coy grin.
"Four years is a long time."
- David Den Herder can be reached at
dden@umich.edu.

Fashion show: Bodysuits galore
High-tech swimsuits get mixed reviews in Bloomington
By Steve Jackson
Daily Sports Writer

____ ___ ___ ____ ___ ___ ____ ___ ___ ____ ___ _-M

0.
REC
SPORTS

The University of Michigan
Department of Recreational Spnrts
INTRAMURAL SPORTS PROGRAM

WHAT'S
HAPPENING

INTRAMURALS
U -

BLOOMINGTON - Skin is not
Perhsn an effort to reverse 20
years of smaller and still skimpier
swimsuits, the women's swimming
world introduced its hottest fashion
trend at the Big Ten Championship in
Bloomington - bodysuits.
This year was the first year that
NCAA athletes were allowed to wear
the special high-tech suits for compe-
tition, and the debut was impressive.
1 Virtually all of the finalists in the
50-yard freestyle Thursday wore the
new wear, which was especially pop-
ular with butterfliers and sprinters.
The jury is still out on how much
these "Fastskin" outfits effect peo-
ple's times.
Thinner than scuba or surfing wet-
suits, the bodysuits are made of a
light nylon-Lycra fabric that also cuts
down water resistance.
Proponents claim that the suit's
tight fit constricts body fat and con-
tributes to a more fluid path through
the water.
"That is especially important in
women's swimming." Wisconsin
coach Erik Hansen said. "Because the
girls typically carry a higher body-fat
percentage and those suits hold their
shape better."
"As a fabric, the bodysuits are
faster than skin," Michigan coach Jim
Richardson said.
"I really like it," Michigan senior
Jen Arndt said. "You don't feel the
burn at all, and you're much higher in
CUHAMPIONS
Pn nnrlfrm PassesI R

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Officials Needed!!

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TOM FELDKAMP/Daily
Bodysuits have become a popular addition to competitive swimming. While some
swimmets claim that the suits help speed, others doubt the positive effects.

the water. That is especially helpful
for me in the backstroke."
But many coaches in the Big Ten
are not convinced.
"Maybe I'm old school, but I think
a fast swimmer will give you a fast
swim," Hansen said. "The suit has
very little to do with it."
And there are reported downsides
to the suit.
Michigan co-captain Missy Sugar
used the bodysuit at Olympic Trials,
but chose a more traditional garb for
this meet.
"They are really hard to get in and
out of," Sugar said. "Plus you need to
keep them dry or they get really

heavy. And I didn't want to deal with
that this weekend."
"The breaststrokers especially
don't like them because it lifts their
legs too much," Emily Fenn added.
"And almost no one wears them in the
distance events, because the extra
weight counteracts any good they
would do."
Illinois' Sue Novitski echoed the
consensus of the Big Ten coaches by
saying "each swimmer should use
whichever suit makes them the most
comfortable."
Hansen sees this fad moderating in
the future for one simple reason.
"They cost 250 bucks a pop."

. Officials are INT RAMURALS *"Flex
Paid for All Hours
Games Worked

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Since Michigan's greatest strength
lay in the freestyle events, the 1,650-

in striking distance throughout the
evening, behind strong performances

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