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Brooke Bennett returns to competition, calls Janet Evans her inspiration

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Three-time Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett announced that she would return to swimming in an effort to qualify for open water swimming at the 2016 Olympic Games.

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Bennett was last seen competing at the Olympics in 2000, where she won gold in the 400- and 800-meter freestyle events. Before that, Bennett won gold in the 800 freestyle at the 1996 Olympic Games.

In her 1996 appearance, Bennett was just 16 years old. Should she qualify for the Olympics in 2016, she'll be competing at 36 years old.

That's OK with Bennett, who says she's been inspired by her former teammates Janet Evans and Dara Torres, both of whom made comebacks and competed well into their 30s and even 40s.

In fact, Bennett calls Evans the biggest idol of her swimming career. In 1996, the two were teammates on the same Olympic team where both swam the same events. There, Evans effective passed the distance torch to Bennett. Evans had won the 400 and 800 freestyles in 1992; Bennett won the 800 in 1996 before winning both in 2000.

"Of course Janet Evans has been the role model and icon of my swimming career, back from when I was eight years old," Bennett said during an interview with Mel Stewart. "I was excited to see her come back for the (2012) trials and qualify, and it just says so much about our sport. … I think she inspired me to do more, but what I'm trying to do is very different from what Janet did in 2012."

Evans tried to qualify for the 2012 team 400 and 800 freestyles — the same events she swam at the Olympic Games. Bennett is trying to qualify for the open water events, which didn't even exist when she last competed in the Olympics.

"The purpose of me coming back and getting out of retirement was to do thing that I've yet to do in the sport of swimming," Bennett told Stewart during an episode of Gold Medal Minute.

Bennett, who is currently training in Clearwater, Fla., with coach Randy Reese, is swimming alongside some of the best teenage distance swimmers in the country, including 16-year-old Becca Mann.

Watch that full Gold Medal Minute interview here.

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