CLOVIS, Calif. - Towson's Michael Phelps dived into uncharted waters last night at the USA Swimming National Championships, but he demonstrated that even in unfamiliar events he is a force to be reckoned with.
The 16-year-old North Baltimore Aquatic Club phenom passed on the 200-meter butterfly - the event in which he twice lowered the world record this year, becoming the youngest American male ever to set a world swimming record. Instead, he entered the 200-meter backstroke, which he had swam only once before.
Josh Davis, a 28-year-old, two-time U.S. Olympic team captain and American record-holder in the 200-meter freestyle, proved too much for Phelps to overcome.
He won the event in 1:58.58, just a second off the world's fastest time this year.
Phelps finished second, two seconds back, in 2:00.57. It was a drop of 11 seconds off his only other race in the event.
"I thought I could go around two minutes, but actually I was hoping to go under," said Phelps. "Still, I had an 11-second drop, so I have to be happy with it."
Bob Bowman, his coach at North Baltimore, was happy too.
"I thought it was a pretty good swim, but there is clearly room for improvement," he said.
Still, Phelps was enthused about his other events coming up this week.
"I have an event each of the remaining three days," he said, "and I'm really looking forward to seeing what I can do. I have the 200 free [today], the 100 fly on Friday, and the 200 individual medley on Saturday."
What does he expect to do in those "off-events"? "Well, I think I can do a pretty fast 100 fly."
"He's only swam the 100 once this year and he did 53.5, a time that would have made the U.S. team for the World Championships," said Bowman.