Tuesday, April 11, 2000
Price may be right
Mililani High graduate Keiko PriceBy Pat Bigold
appears headed for the Summer
Games in Sydney
She's Hawaii's best hope in 24 years to make the U.S. Olympic swim team, but Mililani's Keiko Price said she's not obsessed with getting to Sydney.
"I'm not one of those athletes who eat, drink, sleep swimming," said the four-year UCLA All-American with a 3.6 grade point average."I'm more well-rounded than that. Swimming provides a lot of opportunities but it's not the only thing in my life."
One of the other things in her life right now is her communications major in broadcast journalism, a field she'd like to pursue on the mainland when she hangs up her goggles.
Perhaps this is the best attitude with which to approach the grueling four-and-a-half month stretch of training to the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis (Aug. 9-16).
A daunting number of emotions could tumble in the mind of an Olympic prospect in such a long training period.
But Price admits being a bit annoyed that the trials are being held in August this year while in 1996 they were held in March.
"I don't know why they're doing it this way," she said.
But during a recent home-state visit with her Bruin teammates, UCLA's record-setting senior sprinter said she feels happy, relaxed, and confident.
She said she's also willing to accept the outcome of the mission she's had since she was the most dominating female swimmer in the Hawaii prep ranks.
"If I make it (Olympic team), great, but if I don't, it's not the end of the world," said Price, who feels more in control of her life now.
"For three years, she just did what I told her to do, and now she's not afraid to tell me what she needs to do," said UCLA head coach Cyndi Gallagher. "That's good because she knows herself better. But she's still very trustworthy."
Gallagher pronounced Price "one of the best swimmers in Bruins history."
Price introduced her teammates to Hawaii's sights and eateries in between workouts at the Duke Kahanamoku pool. It's a welcome break from the pressures of being an Olympic project athlete, and she's enjoying the simple pleasures.
"Vacation to me is being able to stay up late," said the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Price.
As a college freshman, Price went to the trials and finished at the back of the pack in her 100- and 50-meter races.
This time, Price is very much a contender," said Gallagher.
Price's image as a contender was enhanced last month when she led UCLA to an eighth place finish in the championships in Indianapolis, topping off her career with a second-place finish (54.68 seconds) in the 100-meter freestyle.
She called it one of the major highlights of her years as a Bruin.
It was especially gratifying for Price because the last time she made the NCAA finals (sophomore year), she was disqualified.
Her other career highlight also came this year when she led UCLA to a historic first: a dual meet win over Stanford on Jan. 31.
Price won all four events in which she swam: the 50 and 100 meters, anchor of the 200-meter medley relay, and leadoff swimmer for the 200-meter freestyle relay.
"My sophomore year and half of my junior year I lifted a lot of weights," admitted Price. "And I think it was too much because I'm naturally strong. This year, I've lifted three times a week instead of every day. Now I work more on my technique."
There are six Olympic berths available in the 100 meters and two in the 50.
With 1992 medalist Jenny Thompson and other veterans coming back, Price's best chance might be in the 100.
"They take six because they take two alternates," said Price.
"There are a few people faster than Keiko right now in the 100," said UCLA assistant coach Brad Burnham. "But when you get to the Olympic trials, it's a matter of who can do it under pressure. Keiko's mental strength is there now."
If she doesn't earn a chance to swim individually, her chances are good for a relay team spot. That could mean she'll have a chance to snap Hawaii's swimming medal drought which dates back to 1956.
NCA Olympic commentator Rowdy Gaines has predicted the U.S. women will capture gold in the 100-meter freestyle relay.