July 27, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Don’t write Michael Phelps off just yet.
The 14-time Olympic gold medal winner won his first gold medal of the XIV FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, China exactly one year out from the 2012 London Olympics.
After taking a bronze in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and silver in the 200-meter freestyle, Phelps, 26, won the 200-meter butterfly, his fifth world title in the event, in 1:53.34.
It was the only medal the U.S. collected on Wednesday at the Oriental Sports Center.
Behind Phelps, Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda took silver in 1:54.01 and China’s Wu Peng won the bronze in 1:54.67.
Phelps overtook Matsuda in the last 50 meters and held off Peng.
“I had written down in my journal all the times I wanted to do at this meet and so far I’m on pace,” Phelps said. “Every single one that I’ve written down, I’m right at it. I wanted to be 1:53 low, and that’s what I was.
“That’s a second and a half faster than last year, and I feel like I’m kind of getting back,” Phelps said. “I felt like my old self the last 100 of that race, especially that last 25. I didn’t feel like I was dying and barely able to get my arms out of the water and like there was a piano on my back. I actually felt like I was swimming for a whole 200 meters, so it felt good. Being able to swing all these semis and finals, I haven’t been able to do this physically for a while.
“I’m happy but this is just a small step for me next year. I still want more and I want to be faster.”
Phelps’ world streak in the 200-meter butterfly dates back to 2001. He said while he was on the medal stand he couldn’t help but think back to his first world title ten years ago when he was 16.
“That’s sort of my bread and butter event, and my family’s break and butter event, and being able to get it back and keep it,” Phelps said. “It may not always be a fun event but it’s something I built my career off of. I know what I have to do in the next year to be able to be where I want to be.
“Like I said, I’m heading in the right direction and I’m, very pleased.”
Phelps is still getting a little ribbing from his fellow swimmers after forgetting his swim trunks on Tuesday and borrowing Australia’s Eamon Sullivan’s trunks with AUS written on the back of the trunks.
In the women’s 200-meter freestyle, Italy’s Federica Pellegrini defended her title and won her second gold medal of the meet in 1:55.58. She was fifth after the first 100 meters.
Pellegrini also won the 400 freestyle title. She won both events in 2009.
“I’m very happy and very proud of the gold medal, I am almost crying because it is so tough,” Pellegrini said. “I am in improving and my goal is the London Olympics.”
Kylie Palmer of Australia took silver in 1:56.04 and Camille Muffat of France took bronze in 1:56.10. American Allison Schmitt, the early leader, missed out on a medal.
China’s Sun Yang won the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle in 7:38.57 followed by Canada’s Ryan Cochrane in 7:41.86 and Hungary’s Gergo Kis in 7:44.94. American’s Chad LaTourette and Peter Vanderkaay were shut out of medals.
Brazilian Felipe Franca Da Silva was a surprise winner in the men’s 50-meter breaststroke in 27.01. It was Brazil’s first world title in the event. However, controversy surrounded the win. An underwater video footage shows that Silva used an illegal dolphin kick at the finish of the race. FINA does not use underwater videos for official results.
Italy’s Fabio Scozzoli took silver in 27.17 and world record holder Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa took the bronze in 27.19. American Mark Gangloff was sixth in 27.58.
In semifinal heats, 16-year-old teenager Missy Franklin, making her worlds debut, qualified sixth in the 50-meter backstroke in 28.14. Ryan Lochte was top qualifier in the 200-meter individual medley in 1:56.74 and Phelps was second in 1:57.26.
On Thursday, SOFLO two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov will compete in his third and final event of worlds, the 200-meter breaststroke prelims.
Greece and China will battle for the women’s water polo gold medal at the Natatorium on Friday. Both teams are making their championship debut. In the semifinals, Greece defeated Italy, 14-11. China won its semifinal against Russia, 13-11. In the round of 5-8 semifinals outgoing world champion United States defeated Canada, 8-4.
Host China is leading with 29 total medals including 13 gold and 11 silvers, Russia is second with 14 total medals and the United States is picking up steam with 13 including five gold medals.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org