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2008 Summer Olympics Profile: Katie Hoff

by Eric Gold, Olympic Editor

(Sports Network) - Michael Phelps may be going after Mark Spitz's single Olympics record of seven gold medals come August, but Katie Hoff isn't far behind in her quest for history.

The 19-year-old Hoff, like Phelps, have ties to the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NABC). Hoff, a native of Towson, MD, will head to her second Summer Games with high aspirations.

At the Athens Games, Hoff was the youngest member of the entire U.S. delegation of all sports. She finished seventh in her lone Olympic final in 2004 - the 200-meter individual medley. Four years later she's made incredible improvements in the pool to the point where she's going to Beijing with a shot of winning up to six medals.

The record for most medals won by a U.S. woman's swimmer at a single Olympics is five - by Shirley Babashoff in 1976, Dara Torres in 2000 and Natalie Coughlin in 2004.

"Four years ago I felt like I was a completely different person," Hoff said.
"Four years ago I felt like I was a completely different person," Hoff said. "I hadn't really experienced big competition at all. Having gone to two World Championships and Pan Pacifics, I feel like I've learned to cope with the nerves. I still get just as nervous, but I just learned to deal with them and hide them a little bit."

Hoff is entered in the 200, 400 and 800-meter freestyle races, along with the 200 and 400-meter individual medleys, plus the 800-meter relay for Beijing.

At July's U.S. Olympic trials, Hoff was the bright spot for the women winning five individual events, and garnered the moniker of the female version of Phelps, winner of six gold and two bronze in Athens.

Hoff trained with Phelps at the NABC and is currently trained by Paul Yetter.

"Controlling of the nerves is a huge deal for Katie," Yetter said. "She's able to control her emotions a lot better now that she's older, has more experience racing."

Yetter said the way he teaches his athletes to strive for the best is by competing against "their own best-self" over time.

"Someone like Katie who's done real well in the sport, she's reached a very high level," Yetter said. "She's trained to do that. She's done an outstanding job in practice her entire life, ever since she was little. For her to compete against her best self is a very large task. It's a motivational thing for us in practice. Her training has to be better, smarter to compete against her best-self. It's a conceptual thing we use for motivation and training."

Hoff, who holds the world record in the 400 IM, says she not only focuses on herself, but does a bit of scoreboard watching too when it comes to her international competitors like Australia's Stephanie Rice in the 200 or 400 IM, or Italy's Federica Pellegrini in the 200 and 400 free.

"I'm not just one of the swimmers who just doesn't want to see other results," Hoff said. "I'm always up on all those swimming Web sites, keeping track of my competitors because I like to know where I stand."

Beijing will also bring a grueling schedule for Hoff, as she has the task of trying to win two events on one night. She did it in Omaha at the trials by winning the 200 free and then 200 IM, albeit both in American-record time. Those races were 44 minutes apart, and in Bejing there will be 1 hour, 28 minutes between the finals.

"I think I've learned I can handle it," Hoff said. "It's definitely a challenging schedule, mentally and physically, but it's something I fell I can do. Having done it ones gives me confidence to do it again."

At 19 Hoff has shown tremendous maturity in the pool, learning to motivate herself, which came at an early age. She learned part of it from her mother, who played basketball for Stanford University from 1979 to 1983.

"When I first got into swimming I was only five, so it was more just different colored ribbons that motivated me," Hoff said. "As I got older, the records or times. Now it's the same thing, obviously on a bigger scale."

Hoff is going to attend Loyola-Maryland in the fall and said she would like to major in journalism. For now though, she has her sights set on making history in Beijing.

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