Dara Torres ignored Amy Van Dyken's pre-race ploy and finally got a victory at the U.S. Olympic trials, beating the defending gold medalist in the 50-meter freestyle Wednesday night.
Van Dyken spit in Torres' adjoining lane before they dived in the water a tactic that has been known to intimidate other rivals. It didn't work against the 33-year-old Torres, who won in 24.90 seconds.
"For me, it's not a big deal," Torres said. "Maybe it is with the younger competitors. I'm so focused on what I'm going to do in my race, I don't worry about that."
Van Dyken, who finished second in 24.99, downplayed the incident.
"I always spit in Dara's lane," she said. "It's nothing against her. I think she got upset the first time because she hadn't swum against me before. I told her, 'I've got nothing but love for you if I spit in your lane.'"
Torres may have beaten Van Dyken, but the victory was tainted just a bit by the woman who wasn't there.
Jenny Thompson, saying she had a full schedule for Sydney, scratched from the 50 after edging Torres in both the 100 free and 100 butterfly. Minus her chief rival, Torres picked up her first victory and ensured her third individual race at the Olympics.
"I need to be able to go faster," said Torres, who finished short of her American record and more than a half-second off Inge de Bruijn's world record of 24.39. "The times I swam here won't compete in Sydney."
In the final event of the eight-day trials, Erik Vendt became the first American to go under 15 minutes in the 1,500 free. With a tremendous finishing kick, he went 14:59.11 to break George DiCarlo's 16-year-old national record.
Vendt, who already earned a spot on the team in the 400 individual medley, ripped off his goggles and searched for the scoreboard as soon as he touched. When he saw the time, breaking DiCarlo's record of 15:01.51, the 19-year-old pumped his weary arms in triumph.
"It feels great to win and get an American record in the same race," Vendt said. "It's been my goal ever since I started swimming the mile at age 12. At the 1,100 mark, I could hear the crowd going crazy and I knew I was on pace for something I figured the American record."
About halfway through the grueling race, Vendt pulled away from favored Chris Thompson, who won a bronze medal at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships. The 21-year-old took the second Olympic spot in 15:09.16.
"I went out wanting to lead at 600 meters and then try to hold everyone off," Thompson said. "Vendt took off on me and I wasn't able to hang with him."
Vendt will try to end America's drought in swimming's longest event, the last medal coming in 1984.