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24 Up

July 2, 2008 |  2:36 pm

Megan Quann after winning the women's 100 breast stroke in Sydney. Have enjoyed watching the British documentary "Up" films, which checks in with the lives of about a dozen children every seven years. The series reached "49 Up," in 2005.

Thought about this on the warm morning walk to the Qwest Center, and concluded that covering swimming is a lot like the sports version of the "Up" series, albeit on a much-shorter timetable. One charm of being poolside all these years is getting to watch the athletes' long and winding journey, turning from unfiltered teens into mature adults.

Eight years ago, the world was introduced to 16-year-old Megan Quann. She predicted that the reigning Olympic champion in the 100-meter breaststroke, Penny Heyns, was "going down" and that Quann would win the gold medal in that race at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. This all happened at the spring nationals, and I remembered sitting with her mom and other family members at the pool in Federal Way, Wash., not far from their home, and they were trying to explain that young Megan was not cocky, just honest.

And dead accurate.

Quann won the 100 breaststroke and then grabbed another gold medal in the 400 medley

relay in Sydney. She returned to the Pacific Northwest, turned pro and signed with Octagon.

There was a coaching switch, and periodically I would hear about her activities from one of the Octagon agents, who helped recruit her. Quann never quit swimming; she just missed making the 2004 Olympic team when she finished third in the 100 breaststroke at the trials in Long Beach and then got married to Nathan Jendrick shortly before Christmas.

Nathan is a writer and some of us got to know him last year at the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia (all those hours hanging around in the mixed zone), where it became clear Quann (who now goes by Jendrick) was swimming well. (She confirmed it by winning a silver medal in the 200 breaststroke.)

At the recent Swimvitational in Omaha, a few of us were chatting with Megan Jendrick Quann in the mixed zone, and she told us about the serious automobile accident on the 5 freeway near the Tacoma Dome that landed Nathan in the hospital in May. She was swimming in Santa Clara, Calif., and he didn't tell her how serious it was because he didn't want her to worry.

"He actually got rear-ended by a semi," Jendrick Quann said. "I got a call about 10 at night that he was in the hospital. They were in a convertible and stopped on the freeway. There was an accident in front of them and they stopped and the semi rear-ended them going about 60 [miles per hour] and lifted their car up and slammed it into the median.

"His knees went through the dashboard and so his legs and knees were black and blue for a couple of weeks. His spine was twisted. I didn't swim very well at that meet. I was worried the whole time. He really didn't want me to come home." 

She predicted he would be in Omaha for the trials, and once again, she was right.

Nathan, though limping, was back on duty in the mixed zone and on hand when she made her second Olympic team, at age 24, finishing second in the 100 breaststroke behind Jessica Hardy on Tuesday night. Happy endings all around.

He was thrilled and had been giving interviews, rather than getting them. "It's been a long eight years," Nathan said.

Can't wait for the next installation of Megan Jendrick's Quann's career, 28 Up, anyone?

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Megan Quann after winning the women's 100 breast stroke in Sydney in 2000. Credit: Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times