INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Amanda Beard couldn't stop shaking. Not when she looked at the scoreboard. Not when she climbed from the pool. Not when she held a congratulatory bouquet for making it back to the Olympics after people wrote off the former phenom.
Beard won a gold and two silver medals as a 14-year-old breaststroker in Atlanta four years ago. But by 1998, her world ranking had plunged to 53rd in the 200-meter breaststroke, and she eventually quit.
She returned to swimming with two tattoos and a pierced tongue, replacing the teddy bear that she toted to the starting blocks at the '96 U.S. Olympic trials.
Beard, a sophomore-to-be at Arizona, trailed before unleashing a furious final lap to clinch an Olympic berth in the 200 breaststroke Monday night.
Kristy Kowal broke the eight-year-old American record in the event, winning in 2 minutes, 24.75 seconds. Beard was second in 2:26.79.
"I thought I was a long shot. I tried to focus on keeping myself positive, but in the back of my mind I knew this was going to be hard for me," Beard said. "I was swimming pretty good this year, but not at the level I thought I had to be at."
Megan Quann, the newest 16-year-old phenom of American swimming, led after the first 50 meters, but couldn't keep up. Kowal surged to the lead at the halfway point and Beard, swimming in the next lane, stayed on the leader's heels.
"I really cranked it up as hard as I could," Beard said. "I couldn't see Megan, so I hoped Kristy was going to carry me to the wall. I started to get excited on the last 50. I knew I was doing good."
Still, Beard couldn't bring herself to immediately check the scoreboard. She steadied herself on the lane marker and gasped for air before turning around.
"I saw the '2' by my name," she said. "Take 1996 and times it by 100, and that's how I was feeling."
Her performance was cheered by other swimmers, including training partner Staciana Stitts, who already made the Olympic team.
"No matter how old you are, what size you are, it's the heart that matters," Stitts said. "Amanda had a lot of heart in that race. She really wanted it."
Gary Hall Jr., struggling with diabetes, also was considered a long shot for another Olympic team in the sprint races.
"She and I were thrown together as people who were iffy," he said. "I'm glad to see the iffy people make it. I'll take Amanda's company anytime."
Hall led eight qualifiers into Tuesday night's 50 free final at 21.91 seconds, less than three-tenths of a second off the world record held by his Russian rival, Alexander Popov.
Hall went 21.93 in the morning preliminaries, breaking Matt Biondi's 8-year-old record of 22.12 in the trials. Then he went even faster in the evening.
Jenny Thompson outdueled Dara Torres in the 100 free with an American record on the sixth night of the eight-day trials. Thompson won in 54.07 seconds, lowering the record of 54.27 she set last month.
"I was pleased to get a best time in such a high-profile situation," Thompson said. "I was practicing as a dress rehearsal for Sydney."
Torres touched second at 54.62, while 1992 gold medalist Ashley Tappin of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Amy Van Dyken finished 3-4 to qualify for the 400 free relay.
Thompson withdrew from the 50 free, which begins Tuesday, because she already has a full racing schedule for Sydney. She also defeated Torres in the 100 butterfly and will swim in at least two relays. "My legs gave out on me at the 75 (meter) mark," Torres said. "I got out of the pool and I almost fell down."
World record-holder Lenny Krayzelburg breezed to his second spot on the Sydney squad by winning the 200 backstroke at 1:57.31.
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