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Smith may hit double

Tonight's 400-meter freestyle could be an interesting race if Ireland's Michelle Smith is allowed to swim. Smith, a surprise winner in the 400 individual medley Saturday night, swam the fastest 400 free in two years two weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale in a time trial.

Ireland tried to enter her in the event a couple of days ago, but some people protested that she can't just decide to be in an event. If she swims, and she's swimming as well as she did the other night, she could be a strong contender.

Dagmar Hase of Germany, the 1992 gold medalist, and Claudia Poll of Costa Rica should be up there. As far as the Americans go, I think Cristina Teuscher has a lot of room to improve but she races very well.

I don't know how Janet Evans has been training. I think her better shot is going to be in the 800. But I wouldn't count her out, just because of who she is.

A lot of eyes are on American Gary Hall right now, but I just can't see him beating Russian Alexander Popov in the men's 100 free. Popov is just too good and I think he's ready to swim fast.

I don't know what's going to happen with Gary. He hasn't swum much at all this summer, but he could be ready to go. His teammate, Jon Olsen, will have to go out fast because he doesn't have the speed to be able to catch any of them.

In the women's 100 backstroke, I think Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi _ the defending Olympic champion and the former world record-holder _ is going to have a good swim. Russia's Nina Zhivanevskaya will be in there.

I don't know about the Chinese. The Chinese women are not swimming well at all, so you don't know what to expect. He Cihong is the world record-holder in that event, but who knows?

American Whitney Hedgepeth has the top time of 1996 (1:01.51) but will have to go faster. Her teammate, 15-year-old Beth Botsford, is not very experienced _ but sometimes having no pressure helps.

I don't think anyone can compete with how well Denis Pankratov of Russia is swimming right now in the 200 butterfly. That's a tough race. You have to swim it so right in order to do well. It's very hard to get your arms out of the water in that last 50.

A lot of the guys are doing that underwater kick now in the butterfly. Pankratov broke the world record in the 100 and 200 fly doing that, but for some people it takes too much out of them.

I used to think that the United States didn't have a very good chance in the women's 400 free relay because of China, but now I would be really surprised if we didn't win it. We have a strong, strong shot, especially with Angel Martino, Amy Van Dyken and Jenny Thompson, who has been swimming out of this world.

+ St. Petersburg native Nicole Haislett, winner of three gold medals in Barcelona and currently an assistant coach at Florida, is in Atlanta for the swimming events.