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QUANCE IN A LIFETIME CHANCE : USC SWIMMER IS OUT OF BEST EVENT BUT HAS TWO CHANCES FOR GOLD.

Byline: Michael Ventre Daily News Staff Writer

They call it the individual medley, which suggests a delightful potpourri of goodies. In truth, it is much sterner stuff. Four courses' worth of grueling aquatic athleticism, with a few twists and turns tossed in for flavor.

It was in this mix that Kristine Quance got mixed up. Surely, she figured, an errant turn would not alter the course of events. People make detours like this daily - on the freeway, in shopping malls and, yes, even in swimming pools during Olympic Trials.

The tale has been much chronicled by now. In brief: Quance, a 21-year-old Northridge native who swims for USC and might be the best in the world, was tooling along in her signature event - the 400-meter individual medley - in the trials back on March 6 when she made what was deemed an illegal turn on the transition from backstroke to breaststroke.

Usually, a federal case is not made of it. ``We rely on officials to use good judgment,'' said her coach, Mark Schubert. ``She wasn't cheating and her turn did not in any way help her. A prudent official would have given her leeway.''

Instead, the striped shirt in this particular case tossed Quance as if she were a tantrum-throwing Dennis Rodman. Quance was disqualified from competing in the Olympics in her best event.

``I never knew that was illegal or that it was a rule,'' she said. ``I had been doing it for so many years. They didn't even give a warning. The whole thing was a complete shock.''

After much ado, the Quance family decided to sue. Then it decided not to sue. Why? Because if Kristine Quance had won, it would have meant bouncing another swimmer from the Olympic team. She couldn't live with that.

``I've always tried to look at things as learning experiences,'' she said. ``When bad things happen, you have to try and make the best out of them.''

Now it's time for the happy ending, or at least the setup to one.

Quance is not out of Atlanta, merely out of her specialty. She'll be competing in the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter breaststroke.

She's no slouch in either. Her time in the 200 was a second off the best in the world this year; Quance improved her time by two seconds. It wasn't easy.

After the initial disqualification, she was grumpy, forlorn, maybe even a tad bitter. All that work for naught. All those mornings slamming her hand down on an obnoxious alarm clock, then trudging off to the pool to pursue a life's dream. All of that gone.

``She came to practice and you could tell she just wasn't the same old Kristine,'' Schubert said. ``It took her a while.''

She managed to discard her dark cloud in time to thrash derriere in the NCAA Championships. She won three events - the 100-meter breaststroke, the 200 IM and the 400 IM. She was also named NCAA Swimmer of the Year.

On top of all that, she's renewed and improved. She probably could have doggie-paddled the 400 IM and snatched the gold. Now she has been presented with the stiff challenge of winning in two of her not-so-favorite events.

Her dedication to that is fierce.

``She looks at it as a no-pressure situation,'' Schubert said. ``Nobody expected her to be there (in those events). She's in a great position. Without a doubt, she wouldn't be as focused as she is now. She relishes this role.''

And outside the pool, she has encountered waves of admirers. ``I think it's easier for people to relate to me, because everybody has had some kind of trauma or drawback in their lives,'' she said. ``I think people can identify with that.''

Sometimes, as Kristine Quance can attest, you can make a wrong turn but wind up on the right path.

PROFILE Age: 21

Schools: Granada Hills High School, USC

Events: 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley

Of interest: Quance missed the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona while battling mononucleosis from January to June.

When to Watch 100 breaststroke: July 21, prelims and finals

200 individual medley: July 24, prelims and finals

CAPTION(S):

5 Photos, 2 Boxes

Photo: (1) Kristine Quance has decided not to s ue over being disqualified in her best event for making an illegal turn.

Daily News File Photo

(2) Kristine Quance

(3-5) THROUGH THE YEARS

1990: Breaks 13-14 girls National Age Group record in 200-yard breaststroke at spring nationals in prelims. Wins the 200- and 400-meter IMs and high-point award at Olympic Festival.

1991: Wins the 200-meter breast with the second-fastest time in U.S. history and places second in the 400-meter IM at Pan-Pacific Games.

1993: Sets American records in the 100- and 200-yard breast. Named High School Swimmer of the Year after breaking Janet Evans' national record in the 200-yard IM.

1994: Bronze medalist in 400-meter IM at World Championships. Wins the 200-yard breast and 200- and 400-yard IM at NCAA Championships for USC, earning meet high-point honors as a freshman.

1995: Runner-up in 400-yard IM and bronze medalist in 200-yard IM in NCAA Championships.

1996: Finishes second in 100-meter breast and 200-meter IM at Olympic Trials to earn spot on U.S. Olympic team.

Box: (1) Profile (see text)

(2) When to watch (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 16, 1996
Words:886
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