Phelps wins 2nd event at trials

Saturday, July 10, 2004

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Michael Phelps vs. the Thorpedo.

Two of the world's best swimmers going head-to-head at the Olympics.

Pretty appealing, huh?

Phelps set up a potential Athens showdown with Ian Thorpe by winning the 200-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials Friday -- clearly the most intriguing part of the quest to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals.

"I love to race the best," said Phelps, who also would have to contend with Dutch star Pieter van den Hoogenband, an upset winner over Thorpe at the Sydney Olympics. "It definitely would be a little appealing."

Natalie Coughlin, the most heralded U.S. woman in the pool, finally made her first Olympic team by winning the 100 backstroke. On the men's side, friendly rivals Aaron Peirsol and Lenny Krayzelburg went 1-2 in the 100 back.

Also Friday, Amanda Beard made her third straight Olympic team over a formidable field in the 100 breaststroke. She held off four-time NCAA champion Tara Kirk and three other former Olympians.

Phelps entered six individual events at the American trials with an eye toward breaking Spitz's record from the 1972 Munich Games. Just 42 minutes after his victory in the 200 free, Phelps returned to the pool to win his heat in the semifinals of the 200 butterfly.

The 19-year-old from Baltimore also hopes to swim on all three relay teams in Athens, giving him up to nine events to chase down Spitz.

The 200 free would be Phelps' only individual race against Thorpe, who has basically become a freestyle specialist. It also presents the longest odds of winning gold, which is why the American phenom didn't rule out the possibility of withdrawing if he feels the event would interfere with his other races.

Phelps holds three world records (200 butterfly, 200 and 400 individual medley) and the second-fastest times ever in the 100 fly and 200 back. As for the 200 free, that's ruled by Thorpe.

He has turned in eight of the top nine times in history, including the world record of 1 minute, 44.06 seconds. Phelps holds the American record, nearly 2 seconds slower at 1:45.99.

"We're going to see how things play out," said Phelps, whose winning time Friday was 1:46.27.

Then again, van den Hoogenband showed in Sydney that Thorpe is not invincible. Phelps would clearly relish a chance to knock off the Aussie star in one of his best events.

"He's been extremely dominant over the last four years," Phelps said.

Knowing he had another race to go, Phelps didn't push too hard in the 200 free. Also, he was hurt by a poor start -- diving into the water slower than any of the other seven finalists.

"I don't know if I didn't dry the (starting) block off," Phelps said. "It's something to pay more attention to in the future."

Added his coach, Bob Bowman: "It was a real slow start, and that cost him the American record."

But Phelps caught early leader Nate Dusing midway through the third leg, then held off Klete Keller at the finish.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: