Aug. 17, 2004
ATHENS, Greece -
Rising junior Christel Bouvron (Singapore, Singapore/Raffles Girls' Secondary School) became the first student-athlete in 84 years - and second overall - to compete in the Olympics while enrolled at the University of Notre Dame when she swam the 200-meter butterfly Tuesday morning in the Olympic Aquatic Centre of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex at the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. One of only 12 competitors to have competed in the 200 fly in both of the last two Olympics, Bouvron finished 32nd with a time of 2:26.21.
Bouvron, who has earned all-BIG EAST honors four times as a member of the Irish, took part in the first of four heats, which was won by Maria Bulakhova of Russia in a time of 2:12.99. The 32nd-place finish matched Bouvron's result in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, when she registered a 2:17.62. Her seed time in these Olympics (2:17.72) also was the 32nd-quickest qualifying mark in the field.
The top 16 swimmers advanced to Tuesday evening's semifinals, with the cutoff for that group coming at 2:12.34. The eight fastest swimmers in the semis will advance to Wednesday evening's final. Leading the way in prelims was world recordholder Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland, who posted a time of 2:09.64. Five other swimmers were below 2:11.00: Yuko Nakanishi of Japan (2:10.04), Eva Risztov of Hungary (2:10.49), American Kaitlin Sandeno (2:10.50), Australian Petria Thomas (2:10.87), and Georgina Lee of Great Britain (2:10.99). Jedrzejczak set the world record of 2:05.78 in 2002, but Thomas has the fastest time in the world in the past year (2:06.01).
Sandeno, a 12-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion, will be a senior at USC this fall, while Lee just completed a vaunted career at SMU in which she was a 22-time All-American and a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American. The other U.S. entrant, Dana Kirk, who will be a junior at Stanford, qualified for the semis with the 12th-fastest time (2:11.96).
Thomas already has captured a pair of gold medals in these Games to bring her career medal total to six (silver in 1996; two silvers and a bronze in 2000), winning the 100 butterfly and swimming on Australia's triumphant 400-meter freestyle relay. She took silver in the 200 fly in 1996 and grabbed the bronze in Sydney. Jedrzejczak also has a pair of medals in Athens - both silver - as she was second in the 400 free and 100 fly, while Sandeno won her second career medal (after a bronze in the 800 free in 2000) by taking second in the 400 IM.
Coverage of the women's 200-meter butterfly can be seen on NBC, with the prelims featured in afternoon action and the semis and final to be shown during the evening (coverage begins both days at 8 p.m. in South Bend).
The official website of Irish athletics, www.und.com, features coverage of all 10 Olympians with Notre Dame ties competing in this year's Games. Included in that coverage are diary entries and photos documenting Bouvron's time in Athens.
In her first two years of collegiate action, Bouvron earned all-BIG EAST honors four times, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the conference meet in the 100-yard butterfly in 2003. In 2003-04, she was among the team's top four swimmers in the 1,650-yard freestyle (3rd, 17:34.38) and the 100 (4th, 55.78) and 200 butterfly (3rd, 2:02.90). Additionally, Bouvron swam the butterfly legs of Notre Dame's top 200- and 400-yard medley relays. The latter quartet finished second at the BIG EAST Championships with an NCAA "B" cut that ended up as the 27th-quickest time in Division I. Her top individual result at the league meet was an eighth-place finish in the 100 fly.
Bouvron just missed an invitation to the NCAA Championships as a rookie, though she was among Notre Dame's top six competitors in five different races. She was the top Irish swimmer in both the 500 freestyle (4:57.33) and 100 fly (54.57), while she came in third in the 200 fly, fourth in the 100 free, and sixth in the 200 free. She posted her top time as a collegian in the 200 butterfly at the 2003 BIG EAST Championships, taking eighth with a mark of 2:02.28. Bouvron completed a trio of top-15 finishes in individual action by taking 13th in the 500 free. She also swam on a pair of third-place relay teams, covering the butterfly portion of the 200 medley and leading off the 800 freestyle.
Bouvron has a great deal of international experience. In addition to making her second trip to the Olympics, she also has taken part in the world championships three times (1998, 1999, 2002), as well as the Asian Championships on three occasions (1996 2000, 2002), taking eighth in the 200 fly in her most recent outing. Last December, she won six medals (three gold, two silver, one bronze) at the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam. Bouvron took gold in the 200 butterfly and was a member of the winning 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays. Her 800 free relay squad won the silver, while Bouvron was the runner-up in the 400-meter freestyle and the third-place finisher in the 100 fly. She also has participated in the Commonwealth Games.
She stands as one of the top swimmers in the history of Singapore, an island-chain nation located between Malaysia and Indonesia. Before arriving at Notre Dame, Bouvron broke the national record in the 400 freestyle, while also setting Singapore under-17 records in both the 400 and 800 freestyle. She also broke under-14 national marks in the 100, 200, and 400 free, as well as both butterfly events.
While Notre Dame has had 25 different former or future student-athletes compete in the Olympics, the only previous one to do so while enrolled at the University was August "Gus" Desch, who won the bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1920 Antwerp Games. Fencing foilist Sara Walsh attended the 1996 Atlanta Games as an alternate while she was a Notre Dame student, but she did not compete.
Each of the last three Olympic Games have featured future Irish representatives in the swimming events. Jilen Siroky, who graduated in May after an injury-plagued collegiate career, competed at the age of 15 in the 200-meter breaststroke for the United States in the Atlanta games in 1996. In addition to Bouvron's appearance in 2000 in Sydney, she will be joined by men's swimmer Andrew MacKay (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands/Cayman Prep & H.S.), who is swimming the 200 and 400 IM for the Cayman Islands. MacKay will be a freshman at Notre Dame this fall.
Since the Antwerp Games in 1920, Notre Dame has been represented (by current, former, or future athletes) in 15 of the 20 Summer Olympics, including each of the last 10. A total of 10 Olympians in the Athens Games have ties to the Irish, by far the most of any Games. The previous high was three in both the 1992 and '96 Olympics. Irish athletes have won nine medals, most-recently a silver by Swedish epeeist Bjorn Vaggo in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. That total includes a pair of golds, both in men's basketball (Vince Boryla in '48 and Adrian Dantley in '76).
For more information on the Olympics, see www.athens2004.org, while complete television listings of coverage by the NBC family of networks can be found at www.NBCOlympics.com.