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Originally published Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 2:48 PM

Hansen makes return in star field at Santa Clara

Brendan Hansen saw his world record smashed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and his desire to race equally shattered.

AP Sports Writer

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Brendan Hansen saw his world record smashed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and his desire to race equally shattered.

The only thing more swift and stunning than Hansen's showing was his exit. While never officially retiring from swimming, the former world-record holder in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke walked away without a whimper.

"I was done. I left the sport of swimming in 2008 with no desire whatsoever to come back," said Hansen, now 29. "That's how fried I think I was."

The little swimming Hansen did came far away from the spotlight.

The American stayed in shape by doing triathlons. He often swam at the University of Texas and exercised in a pool at least four times a week. But it wasn't until December that he got the urge to compete and began to seriously train again.

Turned out, he was still pretty fast.

Hansen will get his first major test Friday when he returns to the sport at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix, where stars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte also are in competition. With most preparing for next month's world championships in Shanghai, Hansen is using the meet as a "measuring stick" with an eye on the 2012 London games.

"I'm not coming back to swim just Santa Clara," Hansen said.

Once a dominant breaststroker, Hansen went down as one of the major disappointments of the American team in 2008.

He put on a brave face after he shockingly failed to qualify for the 200 breaststroke at the U.S. trials despite being the event's former record-holder and bronze medalist in Athens. He finished fourth, and only the top two made the team.

He followed that up by losing to Japan's Kosuke Kitajima for the second straight games in the 100-meter breaststroke, his signature event. Hansen's only first-place finish came in the 400-meter medley relay, the race that gave Phelps his record eighth gold that summer.

Friend and teammate Lochte doesn't remember the disappointment Hansen felt that summer as much as the sportsmanship he showed in defeat, congratulating winners, thanking the host nation and cheering on teammates. Lochte figured then that Hansen would try to redeem himself one day.

"Just the way he held it together spoke volumes about him," Lochte said. "Somebody told me in December that he was trying to come back. I was like, 'Why not?'"

The renewed determination to compete again wasn't the only thing that persuaded Hansen to come back.

Swimming's governing body, FINA, outlawed the bodysuits in December that helped rewrite the record books in 2008 and 2009. That ban, combined with slimming down from 200 to 185 pounds, gives him confidence he can compete against younger swimmers.

"I stayed as far away from all the times and stuff because I don't think they really count," Hansen said of those who broke records wearing the high-tech bodysuits. "The fact that now I think we're back to where we were, my technique and all the things I've really done, I've benefited by not wearing the suit. I think that me not wearing the jammer now has helped me kind of come back versus me coming back to a bunch of guys in bodysuits."

Hansen's goals this weekend are much more modest than most of his competitors'.

While Phelps and Lochte will renew their rivalry and grab most of the weekend's headlines, Hansen just wants to find that competitive edge again by swimming in a race that counts. He won't reveal the times he is aiming for now or in the future, only that he believes his best swimming days are yet to come.

"I have times that I wanted to do faster before I retired," Hansen said. "And I still think I can do those times."

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