Thursday, April 18, 2002

Jasontek back in sync for big meet

Synchro swimmer no longer retired

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite almost dying in 1999 because of a ruptured ovarian cyst, despite not making the 2000 Olympic team in the aftermath, despite calling the 2000 national championships her “last hurrah,” Becky Jasontek is focusing on the 2004 Games. And if the 27-year-old Loveland native needs any further motivation, she can look at her synchronized swimming duet partner at the U.S. nationals, which begin today at Miami University.

        Tracy Long was the 1989 world champion and then left the sport for 11 years until she returned last year, craving a more physically challenging test than training for and competing in Ironman and triathlon races.

        “Tracy is an inspiration to me,” Jasontek said. “Just the fact alone that she did two Ironman races makes me respect her tremendously. After Tracy saw the 2000 Olympics on TV, she called our coach and said, "Is this crazy if I return?' And our coach said: "No, it's not crazy. And we have another (swimmer) who doesn't have a duet partner.'

        “I think what we've been through makes us better (competitors). It has created a kind of maturity in us and given us a different outlook.”

        The three-day nationals are an important step toward their Olympic goal, plus the meet allows Jasontek some time near home. The Mount Notre Dame graduate was a four-time All-American and three-time national champion at Ohio State and a 12-time nationals medalist.

        Jasontek and Long finished second last year in duet, competing for the Walnut City (Calif.) Aquanuts. Their main competition will be two-time defending champion Bill May (the sport's lone male athlete) and two-time Olympian and three-time national champion Anna Kozlova.

        Jasontek has been a part of the last two Olympics, but not as a participant. In December, she was one of the Olympic torchbearers in Cincinnati. In 2000, Jasontek was first alternate for the U.S. Olympic team — which still was noteworthy considering what had happened Sept. 26, 1999.

        She and her boyfriend, Joey Tomsic, were driving to a friend's wedding in northern California when Jasontek started suffering from serious cramps, then blacked out. An ovarian cyst had ruptured, and she was bleeding internally. Fortunately, there was a hospital at the next exit and her boyfriend rushed her into the emergency room at 5p.m.

        “There was so much blood in my stomach, they didn't know if it was my liver or appendix or what was going on,” Jasontek said. “They had to do a large incision to check each of my organs. They wound up taking out my appendix while they were in there. It was a very scary experience.

        “Post-op, about 1 o'clock in the morning, they told me what they had found.”

        If not for her boyfriend's quick reaction and the proximity of the hospital, she would have bled to death. Instead, Jasontek and Tomsic got engaged this February.

        But her chance to make the 2000 Olympic team was essentially lost. In June 1999, Jasontek had been selected one of 13 finalists for the nine spots on the team; in fact, she was in fifth place at the time. But the finalists began training together again in October, and Jasontek couldn't swim with them. In all, she was out of the water for about two months because she couldn't get the incision wet. She hadn't been out of the water that long since she was 5.

        “I was literally like a fish out of water,” Jasontek said. “I found out how much I missed it. It was hard for me even to watch the other girls practice.”

        Jasontek returned to full training with the team in mid-December and didn't know the routines as well as the other finalists. In January 2000, Jasontek was named second alternate but moved up to first when longtime duet partner Emily Marsh opted out and ended up retiring.

        So when Long decided to return to the sport, Jasontek had a new partner — and added reason to compete. Before the cyst ruptured, Jasontek admits, there were days she was so tired, she wished she could skip the pool.

        “I'm not going to say I still don't have those days sometimes,” she said. “But I think back (to the time she couldn't swim) and I realize the opportunity I have and how lucky I am.

        “I can still feel the scar tissue in my stomach when I stretch, but other than that, it doesn't bother me.”

        FAMILY TIES: Jasontek's mother, Ginny, is the founder and coach of the Cincinnati Synchrogators, who also will compete at nationals. They are the youngest girls (ages 14 to 18) in the meet.

        “We know it will be very difficult for us to place,” Ginny said, “but the girls will gain so much knowledge and experience from this competition.”


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