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Bennett wins Olympic gold

Valrico swimmer sets record, completes freestyle sweep.

[AP photo]
U.S. swimmers Brooke Bennett, right, and Kaitlin Sandeno, left, hug after the medal awards ceremony for the women's 800m freestyle Friday, Sept. 22, 2000 at the Sydney International Aquatic Center. Bennett won the gold medal and Sandeno won the bronze medal.

By JOHN ROMANO, Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg TimesOnline, September 22, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia - Brooke Bennett beat the field again this morning. In fact, she beat every field in Olympic history.

The Valrico swimmer won her second gold medal of the 2000 Games and set an Olympic record with a time of 8:19.67 in the 800-meter freestyle. Bennett beat the 800 record of 8:20.20 set by Janet Evans at the 1988 Games.

She also joins Evans as the only swimmers to repeat as 800-meter champions in the Olympics.

[AP photo]
Brooke Bennett celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's 800m freestyle Friday at the Sydney International Aquatic Center.
"Four years ago when I set the goal to keep on going, I had no idea it could be this great,'' Bennett said.

Bennett, 20, also indicated that she will be back in 2004 to attempt an uprecedented third straight gold in the 800.

"I'm not going to leave anytime soon,'' she said. "I could definitely see myself in four years at the Olympic Games. But I'll take it year by year.''

Bennett still has goals to shoot for. She has crept within 1.95 seconds of Evans' world record in the 400 free and is now within 3.45 seconds of Evans' world record in the 800.

Her time today was the fourth-fastest in history.

Bennett was challenged briefly by Yana Klochkova of the Ukraine, who stayed within a half-second for the first 250 meters. Bennett gradually increased her lead through the middle of the race and won by 2.99 seconds.

"The girl tried to challenge her and Brooke held her off,'' said Bennett's coach Peter Banks. "She didn't let the girl get her out of her race. Brooke did exactly what she wanted to do and what she needed to do to win.''

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