Phelps rolls on with 2nd win

Though he's last off blocks, rally captures 200 freestyle at Olympic team trials

4 events remain in his rare bid

Energy conservation enters picture in `fly' qualification

Michael Phelps -- The Road To Athens

July 10, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Does Michael Phelps really want to look up to Ian Thorpe on the medal podium in Athens?

That was the operative question after the world's most versatile swimmer handled the best this continent could offer in the 200-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic team trials last night.

He won despite a start that his coach termed "ridiculous." He didn't post any of his precious personal bests, but tactics were more important than time in a 44-minute span that concluded with the semifinals of the 200 butterfly.

Phelps has seven races down and 10 to go as his quest for Olympic history nears the midway point of this qualifying meet.

The 200 freestyle was the second event among six he will swim here. He's the event's American record-holder, but on paper and in the thought process that says Phelps will only enter events in Athens in which he has a realistic shot at a gold medal, it was the weakest in his trials repertoire.

While he will be the hammer on the American 800 relay team in Greece, he and North Baltimore Aquatic Club coach Bob Bowman must decide if the 200 freestyle will be on his Olympic program.

Is he capable of beating reigning Olympic champ Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands and Thorpe, who was the sport's premier star until the teenager from Rodgers Forge came along?

Phelps won last night in 1 minute, 46.27 seconds, just off his American record of 1:45.99. Thorpe owns the world record, 1:44.06. He had gone nearly four years without a loss at the distance until he was beaten Tuesday in a pedestrian 1:49.27 by countryman Grant Hackett, who happens to be one of Phelps' best friends in the business.

Thorpe, who has repeatedly proclaimed that Phelps is on a mission impossible, was to get another go at Hackett today.

"We have to see how things play out," Phelps said. "Thorpe has been extremely dominant over the last four years. It would definitely be a challenge, between him and van den Hoogenband and the rest of the world. I love to race the best and the fastest of all time."

Phelps has been on an upward curve that saw him notch the 12th world record of his career Wednesday, but advancement means more than records at this stage. The magnitude of what he is attempting requires him to forget about the clock, put the brakes on and save some for the next two days, when he will race eight times.

A crowd of 9,411 was hyped by a live broadcast on NBC, the first in prime time for the network at the swimming trials. Phelps was in the first of four straight finals that included a popular second-place finish in the 100 backstroke for Lenny Krayzelburg, a major influence who has come back from multiple shoulder surgeries. Aaron Piersol won the event.

Amid all that emotion, Phelps seemed sleepy at the start of the 200 freestyle, as he was the last off the blocks and in the water, a bad way to assault his American record.

"I didn't get off the blocks very well," Phelps said. "I don't know what happened. I'm not going to use that as an excuse, but it's something to work on."

Phelps recovered nicely and took control in the third 50 when he overtook the reckless pace of Nate Dusing of Longhorn Aquatics. Down the stretch, Phelps pulled away only slightly from Klete Keller of Club Wolverine, which will become Phelps' affiliation when he sets up residence in Ann Arbor, Mich., in the fall.

He gained an extra minute of rest when his 200 butterfly semifinal was delayed while fellow Baltimorean Melissa Stark interviewed 100 breaststroke winner Amanda Beard on the deck for NBC. Phelps won in 1:56.66, then saw Tom Malchow take the second semifinal in 1:57.52.

Tonight's winner will receive his award from Mark Spitz, who 32 years ago set the Olympic medal mark of seven golds that Phelps is chasing.

"The transition went pretty well," Bowman said of the night's demands. "He set himself up pretty well."

Phelps' results

How Michael Phelps did yesterday at the U.S. Olympic trials:

200 butterfly

Preliminary:

1:58.07 (2nd place)

Semifinal:

1:56.66 (1st place)

200 freestyle

Final:

1:46.27 (1st place)

Phelps today

200 butterfly final

Record (holder):

1:53.93 (Phelps)

Results

Men

100 backstroke final

1, Aaron Peirsol, Irvine Novaquatics, 53.64 seconds. 2, Lenny Krayzelburg, Irvine Novaquatics, 54.06. 3, Peter Marshall, Stanford Swimming, 54.10. 4, Randall Bal, Stanford Swimming, 54.20. 5, Dan Westcott, The Woodlands Swim, 54.93. 6, Jeff Rouse, Stanford Swimming, 55.01. 7, Matt Grevers, Northwestern, 55.13. 8, Bryce Hunt, Auburn Aquatics, 55.17.

200 freestyle final

1, Michael Phelps, North Baltimore, 1:46.27. 2, Klete Keller, Club Wolverine, 1:46.87. 3, Peter Vanderkaay, Michigan, 1:48.52. 4, Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach Swim, 1:48.65. 5, Daniel Ketchum, Michigan, 1:48.67. 6, Scott Goldblatt, Berkeley Aquatics, 1:48.76. 7, Chad Carvin, Mission Viejo, 1:48.93. 8, Nate Dusing, Longhorn Aquatics, 1:49.83.

Women

100 backstroke final

1, Natalie Coughlin, Cal Aquatics, 59.85. 2, Haley Cope, Chico Aqua Jets, 1:01.24. 3, Hayley McGregory, Longhorn Aquatics, 1:01.94. 4, Brielle White, Virginia, 1:02.23. 5, Lauren Rogers, Terapin Swim Team, 1:02.38. 6, Beth Botsford, Tucson Ford Deal, 1:02.41. 7, Courtney Shealy, Bulldogs, 1:02.89. 8, Margaret Hoelzer, Auburn Aquatcs, 1:03.13.

100 breaststroke final

1, Amanda Beard, Tucson Ford Deal, 1:07.64. 2, Tara Kirk, Stanford, 1:07.69. 3, Megan Quann, South Sound Titans, 1:07.80. 4, Staciana Stitts, Irvine Novaquatics, 1:08.00. 5, Jessica Hardy, Irvine Novaquatics, 1:08.29. 6, Lindsey Ertter, Athens Bulldog, 1:08.71. 7, Kristy Kowal, Athens Bulldog, 1:08.80. 8, Jessica Wagner, Tucson Ford Deal, 1:10.24.

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