She wanted to celebrate her victory in a tattoo parlor, go
skydiving and then ride home to Plant City, Fla., on the back of
her father's motorcycle. This is the modern teenager's
equivalent of "I'm going to Disney World." Everything's a little
more raffish these days, so it figures that our new swim queen,
Brooke Bennett the distance darling, would be more MTV than easy
Not that Janet Evans, her predecessor, was ever Muzak in the
pool. Her constant toothy grin and exuberance sang loudly the
advantages of American youth. It was a wholesome sound and,
starting with all those golds she won in Seoul when she was just
17, decidedly more Sousa than Soundgarden.
And now Bennett, unrepentantly young, beating Evans and
everybody else in the 800-meter freestyle and going home to feed
Lucky Charms to Noelle, her potbellied pig. Kids--what are you
going to do with them? Get out of their way?
For Evans, anyway, it was time to move aside, and she accepted
the moment with more grace than anybody might have expected. At
24, in her third Olympics, she was a relic who had shined
brightest eight years before. A chance to win a record fifth
gold, together with the brash bleating of Bennett, motivated her
to enter these Games. But once here, she was consigned to the
largely decorative role of torch passer--first to Muhammad Ali
at the opening ceremonies and then to Bennett.
August 4, 1996
Competitive to the last, Evans didn't react with much aplomb
when she failed to qualify for the 400 freestyle finals earlier
in the week and didn't figure to be happy relinquishing her role
as America's pool princess to Bennett, with whom she had had a
Yet, finishing sixth in her last race, the 800 final, she
crossed three lanes to graciously give her rival a hug,
explaining later that, disappointments aside, this had been her
favorite Olympics. "I had my highs and my lows," she said, "but
I wouldn't give it up for the world."
Bennett, meanwhile, was diplomatic beyond her 16 years.
Remembering that it was Evans who had most influenced her when
Bennett was just eight and eating Lucky Charms herself, she
said, "Janet will always be the queen of swimming. You know how
you always hear about Mark Spitz every four years? Same way."