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THE BIG EVENT // SHOWDOWN IN THE 400

WHAT: Men's 400-meter individual medley.

WHEN: Swim finals begin at 7:33 p.m.

THE BEST: If any American on this weaker-than-usual Olympic team is a lock for a gold medal, Tom Dolan is.

Dolan, the 1994 world champion and world record-holder in this event, is five seconds faster than anyone else in the world this year and nearly broke his record in the U.S. trials. Dolan could win four medals in these Games if he is healthy. He has battled exercise-induced asthma throughout his career; his lungs can take in only 20 percent of the oxygen that an average person's can.

THE REST: Finland's Jani Sievinen finished second to Dolan at the World Championships. He holds the 400 IM record for short course (25 meters) and is the most likely to upset Dolan.

American Eric Namesnik, the 1992 silver medalist, finished 1995 ranked No. 3 in the world. But he will have to do better than his trials time of 4:17.19 to stay in the medal picture. Others who can sneak in include Canada's Curtis Myden, Australia's Matthew Dunn and Moldova's Sergei Mariniuk.

PACE-SETTERS: Chances are the Olympic record (4:14.23) and possibly Dolan's world record (4:12.30) will be broken. The gold medalist in this event has set a world or Olympic record in every Games since 1972. Times since then have dropped more than 19 seconds.

_ SHARON GINN

Swimmers

to watch

TOM DOLAN: U.S., world-record holder (1994)

JANI SIEVINEN: Finland, European champion

ERIC NAMESNIK: U.S., 1992 silver medalist

MATTHEW DUNN: Australia

CURTIS MYDEN: Canada, 1995 Pan Am champion

LUCA SACCHI: Italy, 1992 bronze medalist

MARCIN MALINSKI: Poland

SERGEI MARINIUK: Moldova

Past winners

1992: Tamas Darnyi, Hungary, 4:14.23 (OR)

1988: Tamas Darnyi, Hungary, 4:14.75

1984: Alex Baumann, Canada, 4:17.41

1980: Aleksandr Sidorenko, USSR, 4:22.89

1976: Rod Strachan, U.S., 4:23.68

1972: Gunnar Larsson, Sweden, 4:31.98

1968: Charles Hickcox, U.S., 4:48.4

1964: Richard Roth, U.S. 4:45.4

World record

TOM DOLAN: U.S., 4:12.30

Top times of '96

TOM DOLAN: U.S., 4:12.72

ERIC NAMESNIK: U.S., 4:17.19

MATTHEW DUNN: Australia, 4:17.65

LUCA SACCHI: Italy, 4:17.73

SERGEI MARINIUK: Moldova, 4:18.74

TRENT STEED: Australia, 4:20.40

TOSHIAKI KURASAWA: Japan, 4:20.71

OWEN VON RICHTER: Canada, 4:22.12

Top times of '95

JANI SIEVINEN: Finland, 4:14.75

TOM DOLAN: U.S., 4:14.77

ERIC NAMESNIK: U.S., 4:15.39

CURTIS MYDEN: Canada, 4:16.90

MARCIN MALINSKI: Poland, 4:18.32

MATTHEW DUNN: Australia, 4:18.43

SERGEI MARINIUK: Moldova, 4:18.74

LUCA SACCHI: Italy, 4:18.82

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