The Drive For Five

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Janet Evans' quest for Olympic immortality is alive, and Michelle Smith is making her own bid for that stature. Evans, after her stunning defeat in the preliminaries of the 400 freestyle, qualified for Thursday's 800 freestyle final. If Evans wins the race, she will retire with five gold medals and one silver, tying speedskater Bonnie Blair's mark for most golds by an American woman. "I'll swim again tomorrow which I'm happy about," Evans said, "but if it had been the end of my career this morning that would have been fine, too." Evans' chief competitor will be her idolater-turned-bitter rival Brooke Bennett. The relationship between the two began as teacher and mentor with the legendary Evans helping the newcomer Bennett with her swimming as well as her homework. But after Bennett, 16, snapped Evans' eight-year winning streak last August, the relationship turned from reverence to coldness, with Bennett questioning Evans' courage and Evans angered by Bennett's lack of respect. Ireland's Smith, whose controversial late entry into the 400 freestyle bumped Evans from the final, won her third gold of the games in 200 individual medley Smith, whose rapid improvement has sparked rumors of drug use, already won the 400 IM and 400 freestyle. Smith has vehemently denied any drug use, saying she is the most tested athlete in Ireland. Entering the games, Smith, who hasn't tested positive for drugs, was ranked 41st in the world in the 400 IM, 24th in the 200 IM and out of the top 50 in the 400 freestyle. In the past 15 months, Smith has shed nearly 19 seconds from her 400 freestyle time. Last month, she married Dutch discus thrower Erik de Bruin, her companion of three years, who is under a four-year suspension for steroid use." The controversy surrounding Smith overshadowed a world record by Russian Denis Pankratov in the 100 butterfly. Pankratov finished in 52.27 bettering his own record of 42.32. The only medal for the Americans came in the women's 400 medley relay. Angel Martino, who won her fourth medal of the games, put the U.S. in the lead swimming the butterfly in the third leg. Amy Van Dyken anchored the race for her third gold medal. The U.S. has dominated the first five days of swimming competition, winning 18 medals -- eight gold, eight silver, two bronze. No other country has more than three golds. -- Josh Dubow