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LGA swimmer eyes gold

A 13-year-old girl who trains with LaGuardia Community College's aquatics club will travel to Nebraska this month to compete in breaststroke trials for a spot on this year's United States Olympics team, her coach said.

Annie Zhu, who lives in Brooklyn, will go to Omaha, Neb., to face off against 50 of the nation's top swimmers in trials for the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, coach Dragos Coca said. The swimmer, who has trained for years with the LaGuardia Community College Aquatics Club, will swim against women in the trials who are primarily college-age and have swum in international competitions, he said.

"Qualifying for the trials is a big achievement for her," he said. "She has shown a great talent from the beginning and she's very good at what she does. She just has it."

If Zhu places first or second in the breaststroke or the 200-meter medley during this month's trials, she will join the U.S. swim team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Zhu said she has already swum against some of the women with whom she will compete this month during previous national competitions.

"They are surprised that I am really young but race at such a high level," she said.

Coca said Zhu joined LaGuardia's club at age 4 and immediately began swimming competitively. At age 10, she held the national record for the 100-yard and 100-meter breaststroke in her age group, he said. She also had captured the national record in the 100-yard, 200-yard and 200-meter breaststroke for her age group by age 11, Coca said.

Zhu comes from a long line of professional swimmers, including her father, who swam in the China Nationals 35 years ago. Her mother teaches the sport at a private school in Brooklyn and her two older siblings swim competitively at Bingham University.

Coca said Zhu practices five days per week for an hour and a half. He said the breaststroke is her strongest stroke, but she also excels at the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle, all of which she recently performed in a medley at a competition in Nassau County's Eisenhower Park.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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