INDIANAPOLIS - Michael Phelps only caught a glimpse of Jason Lezak, the second-fastest man in the world in the 100-meter freestyle, as he made the turn at the halfway point of that event last night at the 2005 world championship trials. But that didn't bother Phelps.
As he closed on the final 25 meters, Phelps' hands seemed to grab bigger and bigger gobs of water. He advanced with a flurry, pulling his long, slim body ever faster through the water to win the sprint and leave Lezak to rationalize finishing second.
"I took time off and didn't get back to full training until about six weeks ago," Lezak said. "I knew it would be a tough experience."
And it was, as Phelps finished in 49.00, cutting .05 of a second off his previous best time. Lezak was clocked in 49.09, nearly a second off his American-record time of 48.17.
It was the first of two wins for Phelps, who also won the 200 individual medley in 1:57.44.
Afterward, his coach, Bob Bowman, said that was the last event Phelps would swim here and scratched him from today's 200 backstroke.
"He's swimming enough," Bowman said. "To attempt the 200 IM and the 200 backstroke [at the world championships in Montreal] would be an impossible double. It's too hard. It's better not to swim it here. We'll do training [today]."
Phelps has won every race he has entered in these trials. In doing so, he has qualified for the U.S. team in the 400 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle and 200 IM, the 400 and 800 freestyle relays and the 400 medley relay, though the makeup of the 400 medley relay team will not be finalized until July at the championships.
"The IM and the 100 fly were probably my best performances," Phelps said. "Bob asked me if I wanted to do the 200 back, but I said no because I haven't done too much backstroke and I don't want to be disappointed. I'd be upset if I'd lost and I'd rather end on a high note."
Abingdon's Katie Hoff also continued to perform at a high level yesterday, though for the first time in four days she did not win. Hoff decided to forgo preliminaries for the women's 200 butterfly and concentrate on trying to earn a spot on the national team in the 200 backstroke. It turned out to be the right decision.
Hoff, 15, came from eighth to finish second to Olympic finalist Margaret Hoelzer, who won in 2:10.42. Hoff was timed in 2:14.83.
"My goal was to end up at 2:15 flat and I did that," said Hoff, who is expected to swim the 100 freestyle today.
So far, Hoff has won the 400 individual medley, the 200 freestyle and the 200 IM and, with her second-place finish in the 200 backstroke, she has qualified for all of those events and the 800 free relay.
"Making the 200 back was a pleasant surprise," said her coach, Paul Yetter. "She's just getting more mature and better all the time."
Surprisingly, or not, Phelps also is getting better and broadening his position in the sport. He won his Olympic gold medals in butterfly and individual medley events. Now, he is giving those a rest and concentrating on other distances and strokes.
It makes him something of an interloper in events like last night's 100 freestyle, in which Neil Walker, 29 and a veteran of the sprint wars, finished fifth and marveled at what had happened.
"Everyone has said for a long time that Michael is the most versatile swimmer we have," Walker said. "But it's not that he has all the different strokes; it's that he has all the distances, too - the 100 free and the mile, the 200 back and the 100 back. If you made up something new, I bet he could do that, too.
"You have to swim your own race no matter who is competing in it. But the difference with having Michael in the race is that he doesn't swim it like anyone else. Sprinters go out about two seconds faster than they come home. With Michael, there's only about a half-second difference. ... Michael is so well trained he can power home even when he's tired."
At the finish yesterday, Lezak said he was exhausted and in pain. "I could barely finish my stroke," he said. Phelps, meanwhile, jumped from the pool only long enough to dry off before getting back in the water for the 200 IM.
NOTE: Baltimore's Courtney Kalisz, 14, finished her trip here all smiles. She qualified for her first national final, the 200 butterfly, and finished fifth in 2:12.51. She also produced her best time in the backstroke, making a consolation final, and was in a consolation final in the 400 IM.