Olympic Highlights You Might Have Missed, Part III: Swim-Off

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IAugust 12, 2008

Baseball has its walk-off win over a dominate closer, football has sudden-death overtime, golf has playoff holes, hockey and soccer have their shootouts, and swimming has its swim-off.

That's right, a swim-off.

Have you ever thought while watching the swimming events during the Summer Games, what would happen if two swimmers in a semifinal qualifying race ended up with exactly the same time?

The exact same time. I'm talking about down to the hundredth of a second.

Asami Kitagawa (Japan) and Evelin Verraszto (Hungary) did precisley that.

On Tuesday morning (Monday night in the USA), NBC continued to show coverage of the Men's Gymnastic Team Final.  Team USA was not supposed to medal, but they were performing phenomenally.

While NBC stayed with the gymnastics, they did not show the two semifinal races in the Women's 200m individual medley, a race with some big time international powerhouse swimmers. 

Natalie Coughlin (USA), Katie Hoff (USA), Stephanie Rice (Australia), Alicia Coutts (Australia), Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), Julia Wilkinson (Canada), and Katarzyna Baranowska (Poland) all had clinched their spots in the finals for Wednesday morning.

But thats only seven swimmers.

In the second semifinal race, which was highlighted by Coughlin winning, Kitagawa and Verraszto both finished with a time of 2:12.18.

Normally not a huge deal in swimming: if two swimmers tie for third, then two bronze medals are awarded.  If the two swimmers are out of medal contention, then it's recorded as a tie.

However, this time the two swimmers were fighting for the final spot in Wednesday's final.

Therefore 35 minutes after the second semifinal the two swimmers had a swim-off.  They were the only two swimmers in the pool, winner moves to the finals, loser goes home (back to the Olympic Village).

Both women looking to move on, both from entirely different backgrounds, and yet both a part of Olympic history.  The excitement of having two swimmers compete in a swim-off in which they finished with exactly the same time not even an hour before, but Verraszto held a slight advantage: Rest!

Unless you're Micheal Phelps, rest is very important for a swimmer.

Kitagawa is a 19-year old, first time Olympian. Tuesday morning she swam the 100m Breaststroke final (won by Leisel Jones of Australia), 30 minutes later she swam the 200m IM semifinal race, and 35 minutes after that she swam the swim-off.

But even with rest on Verraszto's side, Kitagawa was able to hold her off and win the race by 2.94 seconds, putting her in the finals of the 200m IM.

Kitagawa will not likely to swim fast enough to reach the medal podium, but what she and Verraszto did Tuesday morning was amazing.  It was another example of what the Olympic Games are all about. 

Not winning or losing, but about competing.  Not being afraid to put everything on the line simply for yourself, your family, your friends, your nation, and the whole world...not for money and fame.


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