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Phelps Fells Lochte Over 200m Back

Aug 2, 2007  - Craig Lord

To have been born a composer when Mozart sat at the keys, a painter of ceilings when Michaelangelo hung from the roof, a warrior when Alexander The Great marched out, a rock group when The Beatles set the beat, a swimmer when Michael Phelps parted the waves.

A curse of timing? Or perhaps a blessing that brings out the best in you? Whatever the answer, there is no escaping the man who forces the question on his rivals with every stroke he takes.

It was Ryan Lochte's turn to take the wrap on day two of the US nationals in Indianapolis: Phelps stopped the clock at 1:54.65 over 200m backstroke, just 0.33sec outside the world record and the third fastest time ever (behind Aaron Peirsol's former world record).

Not that Lochte had chosen the moment to compete to quyite the same standard as he did back at Melbourne 2007: behind Phelps, his Club Wolverine teammate Chris DeJong, in 1:56.75, and Peirsol's Longhorn Aquatics' teammate David Cromwell, on 1:57.43. Lochte took fourth in 1:59.11. Compensation was the survival of his world record.

"Going into the last 50 I actually knew what the pace was - I knew it was 1:25 flat," Phelps said through USA Swimming. "The thing I wanted to see was a 1:24, so when it said 1:25 I thought, 'This isn't good.' The last 25 I started to tighten up so, I didn't get [the world record]. But that's what keeps me hungry - being so close to something and not getting it."

More of the finest fine-tuning to come, then, from Bob Bowman, Phelps's coach, who at 10 learned to play the piano. At 12, his father took him to watch a swim meet at the University of South Carolina. On the blocks was Tracy Caulkins, the model you might say on which Phelps's achievements were founded. She set the US 200m medley record that day. "It was like hearing an orchestra for the first time," Bowman told reporters at the Santa Clara meet in California recently.

Meantime, Lochte did not home home without having stood on the podium, however. He took the 40m medley title in 4:13.55, in Phelps's absence. Champion over 30 laps, Erik Vendt took second in 4:15.84, with Eric Shanteau claiming bronze in 4:16.29.

The 100m freestyle saw 40-year-old Dara Torres take the fifth 100m freestyle title of her long career. In 54.45, Torres has a little way to go before she could be considered a danger to the women now making mid 53s a habit but the oldest swimmer in the world's elite pool was delighted at being back in the race: "It's great to be back swimming and racing. It was the first time racing and swimming against this new batch of girls. You can't put an age on your dreams. I never thought I would be back here. I especially wasn't thinking it after 2000. It's a great feeling. I don't feel like I'm 40. I am excited to be here. The next step is to get ready for my 50 [on Saturday]."

Behind her, Amanda Weir and Dana Vollmer on 54.79 and 54.95 respectively.

David Walters clocked 48.96 over 100m freestyle to take his first US title ahead of South African Ryk Neethling, on 48.98, and Nick Brunelli, on 49.04.

Like former clubmate Phelps, world medley champion Katie Hoff steered clear of the 400m in favour of taking on the challenge of 200m backstroke. In 2:10.31 the title was hers, ahead of Mary Descenza, on 2:11.26, and Katie Riefenstahl, on 2:11.67, which edged out Teresa Crippen, on 2:11.79.

Without Hoff, the 400m medley crown went to Caitlin Leverenz, on 4:40.81, ahead of Kathleen Hersey 4:42.25, a touch ahead of Julia Smit, on 4:42.37.

From day one in Indianapolis, we reported on the powerful win over 200m breaststroke by Rebecca Soni. Many thanks to the reader who pointed us in the direction of a story with a fascinating twist: Soni has recently had surgery for a heart condition.