Gopher Olympians hope to succeed in water, not on it

by Jim Schortemeyer

Minnesota’s Olympic history with water has usually involved the frozen stuff.
When you think of Minnesotans in the Olympics, you should think of the 1980 Miracle On Ice.
The last time the Olympics rolled around, future (and now former) Gophers hockey player Jenny Schmidgall won a gold medal with the U.S. women’s hockey team in Nagano, Japan.
Now, there might be a few more Gophers with medals around their necks after this year’s summer Olympics in Sydney.
But this time their success will come in the water instead of on it.
One of those competitors is Brazilian swimmer Alex Massura. Four years after his fourth-place finish with a Brazilian relay team in Atlanta, Massura and fellow Brazilian Gopher Ricardo Dornelas will represent the University’s swim team in Sydney.
And both plan on bringing home some hardware.
Dornelas has the Brazilian record in the 50-meter free, though he finished well out of medal range at the world championships in ’98 with his 16th-place finish.
Neither swimmer competes much on the international stage because of their duties on the Minnesota swim team, but Massura said in an interview in March that doesn’t matter.
“Now I have much more in experience,” Massura said. “I know the people who are going to be there better. I already know the environment. I think now, it doesn’t matter if you’re racing here, there, or at a national championship. It matters how you focus. I say, when you get to the race, it’s 90 percent mental.”
The two Brazilians won’t be going alone. The pair’s head coach, Dennis Dale, will be going along for the ride with his two South American prodigies.
The other part of Dale’s team (the diving) could provide an entrant to the competition down under as well.
Minnesota senior Dan Croaston has a chance, albeit an outside one, at qualifying for Sydney later this month at the U.S. diving championships in Seattle.
Will he make it that far? Vice President of U.S. Senior Diving Dave Burgering said Croaston has the skills, but he has a long way to go.
“Dan has a lot of potential,” Burgering said. “In our sport, maturity is a big thing. He is still considered a rookie. If he doesn’t let outside influences get to him and dives well, sure, he could be a dark horse and be a surprise to a lot of people.”

Jim Schortemeyer retired from the sports editorship and welcomes comments at [email protected].