Aug. 16, 2004
ATHENS, Greece –
On Sunday, Michael Phelps’ dreams of winning eight Olympic gold medals in swimming were dashed by a third-place showing in the 400 meter freestyle relays. Now his chances of sweeping the individual events have hit a bump in the road thanks to a former Florida State University swimmer.
Great Britain’s Stephen Parry, a former NCAA Champion for the Seminoles, is the top seeded for Tuesday’s finals of the 200-meter butterfly. Parry just missed setting the Olympic record by 0.22 of a second with his personal-best time of 1:55.57. Phelps hit the wall in second place at 1:55.65. The finals are scheduled to begin at 7:50 p.m. Eastern European Summer Time (12:50 p.m. EST).
“I would have been a real upset if I didn’t make the final,” Parry said in a press conference following the semifinals. “With all those weekends I spent away from my girlfriend, she would have told me off. I gave myself a right talking to and listened to ‘Rocky 3’. I didn’t want to be part of the team like in Sydney, where we didn’t win a medal.”
The dream of an Olympic medal were almost crushed this morning for Parry as he narrowly made the semifinals of his only event. During the preliminary swim he posted a mark of 1:58.88 which got him into the semis by just 0.05 of a second.
Even if he doesn’t end up on top of the podium, any medal that Parry brings home would end more than one medal drought. The only medal ever won by a Seminole in the pool came on the diving board at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico as Phil Boggs won the springboard event. As a team, Great Britain hasn’t had a medal winner in the water since the 1996 games in Atlanta.
“He’s got some international experience, but this is first time that he’s put himself in a position to win a medal at a meet as big as this,” associate head coach Andy Robins said. “He has been at or near the top in several meets, but hopefully this will be the one where he breaks out.”
A veteran of international competition, he took sixth in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Ranked in the top 10 in the world in the event, he placed fourth at last year’s World Championships in the 200 fly.
“I certainly think this will boost his confidence,” Robins noted. “It’s a great story of a guy who makes the semifinals by hundredths of second only to be the top seed for the finals. When I saw his time from the prelims I knew that that wasn’t the best he could do and he can back well. Now he’s going to be under a lot of pressure.”
A nine-time All-American for the Seminoles from 1996-99, he captured the 1997 NCAA Championships in the 200 butterfly. His time of 1:44.28 at the University of Minnesota set the pool record. Five times an individual ACC champion with multiple relays titles, he still owns the conference record in the 100 backstroke.