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Hoff's world championships hopes slip away

KATIE Hoff's status as one of the world's elite swimmers suffered another blow yesterday as she failed for the second day to qualify for a spot on the United States team for the world championships.

A day after struggling to sixth place in the 400 metres freestyle, an event she won silver in at the Beijing Olympics, Hoff trailed home last in the 200 freestyle, all but ending her hopes of competing in Rome later this month.

Hoff, the two-time 200 and 400 individual medley world champion, has chosen not to race the events at the national championships and already withdrawn from the 800 freestyle.

She will have one last chance to qualify for the worlds in the 100 freestyle but the dejected 20-year-old swimmer was not sure she would return to the pool at these championships.

"The best swimmers, even Janet Evans, had years when they aren't on," said Hoff. "This has been a huge transition year.

"I've just got to go back to the drawing board and see what works for me again."

Hoff's struggles can be traced to a respiratory infection that had threatened to keep her from competing in Indianapolis but her problems appear to run much deeper.

Hoff changed coaches after the Beijing Olympics, linking with Michael Phelps' coach Bob Bowman after he returned to North Baltimore. The move was supposed to take her to the next level but instead she has slipped back.

Her poor results have sparked speculation she has had trouble adapting to Bowman's demanding coaching style, which Phelps thrives under.

"Bob and Paul (Yetter) are different coaches," said Phelps. "Bob can be forceful at times, can be intimidating.

"I'm sure both of them want the best but they approach things differently.

"I told her if she ever needs anything, I probably know Bob better than anybody in this world.

"We have spent the last 13 years together I've been through just about anything you can go through with that man."

It has been a bitterly disappointing meet for Hoff who only a year ago was being billed as the female equivalent of Phelps, ambitiously entering six events in Beijing.

While Phelps won eight gold medals at the Water Cube, she left Beijing with a silver and two bronzes.

Both Hoff and Bowman admitted that there will need to be some discussion about what might be the best way to get back on track.

"After I got sick I thought about not coming but I started getting and didn't want to be a quitter this year after everything I've been through," Hoff said.

"We talked about this being a low key year but it has actually been the hardest year of my life.

"After we started doing max out weights and we did the Navy Seal thing, I felt like I was digging into a deeper and deeper hole and couldn't get out of it.

"Everyone is different. Everyone's not Michael Phelps.

"I don't know how he does it but my body doesn't work the same way and I think Bob and I have to talk it over and figure out what works best for me."


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