Favorites earn Olympic spot at trials

For the Mirror

Anna Kozlova and Alison Bartosik earned their tickets to Athens Saturday, becoming the first two athletes named to the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. The pair won the duet competition at the 2003 U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team Trials at the Weyerhaueser King County Aquatic Center.

“Going to the Olympics is an equally amazing and scary experience. I can’t wait,” said Kozlova, 30, a two-time Olympian who competed for the Unified Russian States in 1992 and the U.S. in 2000.

Kozlova is the first U.S. synchronized swimmer to become a three-time Olympian.

The 2004 Olympics will be the first for Bartosik, 19, who has competed with Kozlova since November 2001.

“Anna has taught me a lot over the past two years about competing internationally, and I look forward to learning a lot more as we build toward Athens,” Bartosik said.

Kozlova and Bartosik scored a 96.417 to win the event by nearly three points over the unaffiliated duo of Sara Lowe of Desoto, Texas and Stephanie Nesbitt of Riverside, Calif., at 93.501.

Kozlova, of St. Petersburg, Russia, and Bartosik, of Flagstaff, Ariz., were considered the early favorite for the duet Olympic bid after placing fourth at the 2002 FINA World Cup in Zurich in September.

By winning the duet event, the pair will automatically become part of the nine athletes named to represent the United States in the team competition in Athens. All trials results are pending U.S. Olympic Committee approval.

In the semifinals Friday, Bartosik and Kozlova swam to a Spanish-themed technical routine in honor of the upcoming World Championships in Barcelona.

“We had a good swim today, but we always know we can do better,” Bartosik said. “Anna and I have our sites set on winning a medal in the Olympics. This is the first step to making that dream come true.”

The trials are 573 days before the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics. The early date is necessary to prepare the team to compete in three major international events prior to the Games –– the 2003 FINA World Championships, 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Olympic Qualifying Open.

Bartosik and Kozlova will now prepare for the 2003 Japan Open April 3-5 in Japan, and then for the 2003 U.S. Nationals April 23-26 in Long Island, N.Y. The next major international meet for the duo is the 2003 World Championships July 13-17 in Barcelona.

Competition continued Sunday and Monday at the aquatic center with the 2003 U.S. National Team I and II Trials, and the 2003 U.S. Junior National Team Trials.

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