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Janet Evans' comeback trail takes her to Olympic trials

January 13, 2012 |  7:53 pm

Janet-evans_300Five-time Olympic swimming medalist Janet Evans of Laguna Beach, who is making a competitive comeback at age 40, qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials by meeting the time standard for the 400-meter freestyle Friday at the Austin Grand Prix.

Evans, who last competed in the Olympics in 1996, won her preliminary heat in the 400 in 4 minutes 17.27 seconds. That was more than two seconds under the qualifying time for the trials, which will be held in Omaha, Neb., beginning in late June and will determine the U.S. team for the London Olympics, which begin in late July.

Evans, a mother of two and a successful motivational speaker, told The Times a few months ago that she returned to swimming as a way to get fit and later decided to go for a trials berth.

"Swimming is in my soul, and I missed it and I needed it and it makes me feel kind of complete," she said.

Her time Friday was considerably slower than Allison Schmitt's winning time of 4:05.90, which broke the pool record set in 1988 by Evans at the Olympic trials. And Evans finished last in the "B" final Friday night with a time of 4:18:15.

Still, qualifying for the trials in that event was a major achievement for Evans, who does not consider the 400 her specialty.

"I was really nervous," she told reporters in Austin after her first race. "I'm usually a spectator in the stands these days, and now I'm down here with all the young kids."

Evans also plans to compete in the 800 freestyle in Austin on Sunday.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Janet Evans speaks to reporters after earning an Olympic trials qualifying time in the women's 400-meter freestyle preliminary race at the Austin Grand Prix on Friday. Credit: Michael Thomas / Associated Press