WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 4, 2010
Making his first appearance in the meet, Michael Phelps had the crowd on its feet Wednesday night at the ConocoPhillips Long Course National Championships in Irvine, Calif.
Even when he’s not at his best, Phelps is still good enough to win.
The Olympic hero, paying the price for inconsistent training since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had to dig deep in the final meters to win the men’s 200-meter freestyle.
A day after Phelps said he would rather see tight races than a world record obliterated by five seconds, he got his wish. The 25-year-old American record holder won in 1:45.61 just beating Ryan Lochte, 26, of Daytona Beach to the wall. Lochte, nursing a groin pull, finished in 1:45.78. Lochte was coming off his 400 IM win on Tuesday night.
Phelps was the fifth-fastest seed after morning prelims in 1:48.40. His best is 1:43.22. Phelps put out just enough effort to qualify and then dug deep mentally in finals.
Phelps and Lochte’s times moved the U.S. into first and second place in the world rankings ahead of Paul Biedermann of Germany, the only other swimmer in the world to break into 1:45.
Phelps then came back with enough in the tank to win the 200-meter butterfly in 1:56.00. Mark Dylla, 21, of Athens Bulldogs was second in 1:57.08. Phelps is the World and American record holder in the event in 1:51.51.
Phelps coach, Bob Bowman, said Phelps is only half ready for this week’s meet. “If we wanted him to swim into London, we had to have this year,” Bowman said. “Otherwise, he wouldn’t have made it.”
Another familiar face secured her top spot in her marquis event despite several young swimmers nipping at her heels.
American record holder and 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, 27, of California Aquatics, won the 100-meter backstroke in 1:00.14, her fastest time since Beijing. The victory was Coughlin’s fifth long course national title.
Coughlin was pushed by a trio of youngsters in the race. Missy Franklin, 15, of Colorado Stars, the fifth-fastest morning seed was second in a career-best 1:00.39. Rachel Bootsma, 16, of Aquajets was third in 1:00.40 and Elizabeth Pelton, 16, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club was fourth in 1:00.48.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s Tyler Sell competed in two more events on Wednesday.
The Florida State-bound 18-year-old finished the 200-meter butterfly in 2:13.30. His seed time was 2:07.85. He also finished the 200-meter freestyle in 1:59.48. His seed time was 1:53.86. On Tuesday Sell finished the 400-meter freestyle in 4:08.66. His seed time was 3:58.03.
On Thursday, SOFLO teammate Melissa Cooper, 18, will compete in the 100-meter breaststroke. She is seeded 55th out of 129 swimmers with a career-best 1:11.74 time. She also plans to swim a few time trials in the 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke or 200 individual medley.
In Wednesday night’s other final events:
Women’s 200-meter freestyle: Allison Schmitt, 20, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club won in 1:56.84, finishing ahead of top morning qualifier Dana Vollmer, 22, of California Aquatics (1:56.93) and Katie Hoff, 21, of FAST Swim Team (1:57.50). Schmitt’s time was the second fastest in the world.
Men’s 100-meter backstroke: David Plummer, 24, of Minnetonka Swimming pulled off the upset of the night by winning in 53.60 and knocking off world and American record holder Aaron Peirsol, 27, of Longhorn Aquatics, who finished second in 53.63. Peirsol, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, was the fastest morning qualifier in 54.02 but knew he would have his hands full with Plummer, the second fastest qualifier in 54.11.
Men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay: The Schroeder YMCA relay of Kevin Baseheart, 21, Adam Mania, 26, Mihell Friedemann, 18, and Seven Cebertowicz, 20, won in 3:22.86.
Other Florida Gold Coast results:
Men’s 200-meter butterfly: 63. Jeffrey Raymond, 20, Pine Crest Swimming, 2:06.09.
Men’s 200-meter freestyle: 41. Jeffrey Raymond, 20, Pine Crest Swimming, 1:52.75; 53. Andrew Novakoff, 20, Davie Nadadores, 1:53.37.
Women’s 200-meter freestyle: 19. Lauren Driscoll, 16, FLA 2:01.09 “C” final, 2:00.95, prelims; 95. Damaris Iriondo, 17, FLA 2:05.17.
The national championships is following the traditional meet schedule of morning prelims (12 noon EST) and evening finals (9 p.m. EST). The competition will be broadcast by NBC in two shows at Saturday, Aug. 7 and Sunday, 8. The Aug. 7 show will air from 4-6 p.m. EST and the show on Aug. 8 from 4:30-6 p.m. EST.
The meet is being webcast live by Swimnetwork.com for the entire meet.
The only swimmers guaranteed spots on the Pan Pacs team are the winners in each event and top four in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Second place finishers and then third place finishers will be added until the roster of 26 swimmers is complete.
In addition to Pan Pacs later this month in Irvine, the national championships will decide the U.S. roster for several international meets including Junior Pan Pacs, 2010 FINA Short Course World Championships, 2011 FINA World Championships and 2011 World University Games. Team rosters will be posted at www.usaswimming.org.
Thomas Lurz of Germany won the 10K open water race on the opening day of the European Championships in Hungary. Lurz finished in 1 hour, 54 minutes and 22.5 seconds, just 2.3 seconds ahead of Italian Valerio Cleri (1:54:24.8) off the north coast of Lake Balaton. Evgeny Drattsev of Russia took the bronze, just 4.1 seconds out of first in 1:54:26.6. In the women’s 5K race, Ekaterina Seliverstova won the gold medal in 1:02:34.7. Kalliopi Araouzou of Greece was second in 1:02:37.3 and countrywoman Marianna Lymperta was third in 1:02:41.3. The pool events begin on Monday.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com