Phelps wins, but not pleased

He fails to break U.S., world records in 200 free, 200 fly

August 03, 2006|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG | KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG,SUN REPORTER

IRVINE, Calif. -- At some point during the past three years -- it's difficult to pin down when, exactly -- there was a subtle, but important, change in the way the swimming world looked at Michael Phelps.

The hunter, after years of clawing his way to the top of the mountain, suddenly became one of the hunted.

It happens to every great athlete, and it happens, eventually, in every sport. It's part of the natural progression of competition. Phelps, who knocked down world records with relative ease as a Baltimore teenager, often leaving the entire field in his wake, entered his 20s and was suddenly forced to spend considerable energy every meet just to stay in front of the field.

USA Swimming National Championships

Through Saturday, William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center, Irvine, Calif. Today: Men's 100 butterfly, 50 freestyle; women's 100 breaststroke, 50 freestyle, 400 individual medley, 800 freestyle relay

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