Unshaved, suffering from jet lag and pushed only by his training partner, Michael Phelps marked his return to Baltimore with a workmanlike hat trick last night.
Two weeks after dominating a pair of meets in Australia, the hottest swimmer in the world lorded over the North Baltimore Aquatic Club's 30th annual Christmas Invitational at the Loyola College Natatorium.
In less than 55 minutes, Phelps had three wins and posted two personal bests in the short-course yards format. He won the 200 freestyle by more than seven seconds. Less than 20 minutes later, he dominated the 100 butterfly, and finished his individual chores in the 200 individual medley, one of the three events in which he's the world-record holder in Olympic-sized pools.
Phelps then joined Jamie Barone, Cory Knopp and Kevin Clements on the victorious 400 freestyle relay team.
The 18-year-old star of last July's world championships in Barcelona didn't expect any challenges in a meet that brought to Baltimore four teams from Virginia, one from North Carolina and another from Frederick. Most were kids, as the meet has four levels, starting with 10 and under.
Phelps pointed to his last individual win, where he went 1 minute, 44.57 seconds in the 200 IM, as evidence of how far he has come in the last year, but actually found some fault with his fitness.
"Last year at this meet I didn't break 1:47," Phelps said. "We're in a fairly good place, but there are a few things we want to work on. I found that my legs aren't as in good a shape as we had hoped."
After arriving home from Australia four days earlier, was Phelps suffering from jet lag?
"I am," Phelps said, "but that's not an excuse."
He won the 200 free in 1:33.82 seconds, one of the 10 fastest times ever by an American but 0.79 of a second off Matt Biondi's 16-year-old American record. His 100 butterfly time of 46.88 was good, but not great. His 200 IM time was two tenths of a second off the personal best he posted last March, but nearly two seconds slower than the format's all-time mark.
Phelps didn't get any American records, but Katie Hoff did. The 14-year-old, who moved from Williamsburg, Va., to Abingdon in late summer and joined the NBAC's satellite team in Harford County, twice lowered the national age-group record in the 200 IM. In the morning preliminaries, Hoff dipped to 1:59.01, and last night she improved to 1:58.27.
Cal star Natalie Coughlin had held the American record for 13-14 girls, going 1:59.83 in 1997. Hoff, who also won the open 100-yard breaststroke in 1:02.88, beat three-time Canadian Olympian Marianne Limpert in the 200 IM.
Kevin Clements won the men's 100 breaststroke in 55.33. He placed second to Phelps in both the 200 free and 200 IM, where he's the second-fastest American ever. Emily Goetsch won the women's 100 fly in 54.28.