Phelps breaks 200 fly record

He sets world mark for 5th time at distance

February 18, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

More than a month before the world championships in Melbourne, Australia, Michael Phelps last night sent notice that he's still the guy to beat in the 200-meter butterfly.

Phelps hit the wall in a stunning time of 1 minute, 53.71 seconds in the 200 butterfly final at the Missouri Grand Prix, breaking the world record for the fifth time.

It was stunning because, technically, he's a long way from peaking for Melbourne.

"We haven't started tapering yet," the Rodgers Forge native said last night from Columbia, Mo. "I'm still lifting three times a week. There hasn't been much change in training so far. My reaction tonight spoke for itself."

Phelps' reaction was a mixed bag, actually. When he hit the wall, he misread his time as 1:57 and wondered why the crowd at the Mizzou Aquatic Pool was cheering so heartily.

He took his goggles off and looked at the time again. "Then I went nuts," he said.

"He was pleasantly surprised; he has a childish smile on his face," said Jon Urbanchek, a special assistant to the USA Swimming national team.

Phelps last broke his 200 butterfly record on Aug. 17, 2006, when he swam in 1:53.80 at the Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, British Columbia.

He couldn't have started the three-day meet in Columbia any better. He'll compete in the 200 freestyle and the 400 individual medley today, then the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke tomorrow.

Phelps is not quite sure what to expect now.

"My goal was to come in and swim faster than I did in the U.S. Open," he said. "If I do that, I think things will be on the right track. For the first event, it was almost two seconds faster than I was in the Open."

Said Urbanchek: "He just wanted to have a good swim, make his first event at a major competition a good one to build self-confidence. ... This is a good indication of his preparation. It should give him pretty good self-confidence."

Phelps, swimming for Club Wolverine, said it was the first time he set a world record without his coach, Bob Bowman, present. Bowman was with his Michigan team at the Big Ten championships.

"I felt really good," Phelps said. "Underwater I felt good; my stroke felt good.

"There were probably two or three things I think I could improve on. It's definitely a really good start. I'm proud and happy about it."

The pool events for the world championships at Melbourne will start March 25 and run through April 1.

Most of the U.S. world championship team is competing in the Missouri Grand Prix. Katie Hoff of Towson took first in the women's 400-meter freestyle final in 4:09.47, and second in the 200 butterfly final in 2:11.99.

The 200 butterfly was won by UCLA's Kim Vandenberg, who posted a personal best of 2:08.22.

After Vandenberg's event, Urbanchek went to Phelps with the suggestion he could do that, too.

"I said, `Jon, you're crazy. I'm not going to set a world record,' " Phelps said. "Honestly, I was extremely shocked when I hit the wall."

"Never underestimate Michael," Urbanchek said later.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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