Mark Humphrey, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Janet Evans finished 53rd out of 65 swimmers in the 800-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, ending the former Olympic champion's comeback at age 40.
Evans completed the 16-lap race in 9 minutes, 1.59 seconds, placing her eighth out of 10 swimmers in her heat won by Jamie Bohunicky, a 21-year-old who swam 8:48.42. Evans' time was far off her seed time of 8:46.89.
"I wish I had swam faster, but I think I will be totally grateful," she said. "Grateful for the fact that I was able to do it and my body held up and people who supported me. I'll be happy I did it instead of sitting on my couch wondering what-if."
Evans climbed out of the pool for the last time to cheers from the crowd. She smiled and gave a small wave before disappearing below the deck. She also didn't advance out of the 400 free prelims on Tuesday, when she finished 80th among 113 swimmers.
"Yes, this is definitely it," she said. "I just signed my retirement papers. First thing I did."
The queen of distance swimming was a three-time Olympian who won the 800 free at the 1988 and '92 Olympics, and was undefeated in the grueling event for eight years during her stellar career. She retired after the 1996 Games, eventually marrying and having two children.
"I'm just looking forward to sitting in the stands finally," said Evans, who plans to be in London during the games. "I don't have to go warm up."
Kate Ziegler, who didn't make the 800 free final in Beijing, was the top qualifier for Sunday's final in 8:27.61. Katie Ledecky, a 15-year-old from Bethesda, Md., was second at 8:27.91. Chloe Sutton, who made the Beijing Olympics as an open-water swimmer, was fourth.
Like Evans, the race also marked the end of trials for two-time Olympian Katie Hoff, who won't be going to London. She finished 13th — five spots out of the final — in 8:39.03. The 22-year-old, who won five events at the trials four years ago, finished 20th in the 200 free prelims, missing a spot in the semifinals by 0.32 seconds. She didn't advance out of the 400 free prelims after feeling sick from a stomach virus.
"I'm proud of myself for doing it," said Hoff, who had been unsure on Friday whether she would scratch the event. "Obviously, I wanted to be better, but I took it out and tried to hold on and couldn't. Somebody told me my career is about not rolling over in adversity. I don't want to be that girl. I gave it my best shot and that's really all I can do."
Anthony Ervin's comeback is going much more smoothly.
The 31-year-old sprinter was the top qualifier in the 50 free nine years after the 2000 Olympic gold medalist retired. He touched in 21.83 seconds to lead 16 men into the evening semifinals.
"Maybe I was lucky," he said. "Hopefully not. Hopefully, I've got two more races like that in me."
Ervin tied Gary Hall Jr. for the gold medal in the chaotic race at the Sydney Games, then retired in 2003 and eventually sold his medal for $17,100 and donated the money to those affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. He returned to training last year, intrigued by what he could accomplish at an older age.
"I did think, 'Do I have that in me?' I wanted to believe I did, but I didn't know," Ervin said.
Nathan Adrian, Ervin's training partner at California, was second at 22.06. Cullen Jones, runner-up in the 100 free on Friday, was third at 22.09, tying Jimmy Feigen.
Jones is looking to make up for his disappointment in the 50 four years go.
"In 2008, I had really salty taste in mouth," he said. "In prelims I got the American record. Then I got second in the semis. Unfortunately, third in the finals. I'm gunning for that first place."
He prefers the 50 over the two-lap 100. "I don't want to turn around," he said. "One shot, that's it."
Matt Grevers, the 100 backstroke winner here, was seventh at 22.24, while 2008 Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale was 10th at 22.52. Nick Brunelli, second-oldest to advance at 30, was 12th.
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