SAN ANTONIO: Michael Phelps made it three national titles in three world leading times in three days on Sunday with a sizzling 200m individual medley triumph at the US swimming championships.
The 18-time Olympic gold medalist electrified the crowd by hitting the 150-meter mark under world record pace en route to a dominant victory in 1min 54.75sec.
“I’m pumped,” Phelps said. “Being able to do that right now, I’m very, very pleased and it’s something great to build off of.” Although he faded on the final freestyle leg to finish outside the world record of 1:54.00 set by US team-mate Ryan Lochte in 2011, he was more than a second faster than the 1:55.81 Lochte produced to win the world title in Kazan, Russia, this week.
Phelps lost his world championships berth as part of the sanctions for his drunk-driving arrest last September. With the US nationals running opposite the worlds serving basically as a consolation meet, Phelps has made sure he’s on the radar of the globe’s elite
posting times that would have been good enough to win in Kazan in the 100m and 200m butterfly as well as the medley. He admitted it was one of his aims going into the nationals, although he said he wasn’t sure things would pan out that way.
“Obviously, I’d like to make a statement like that,” Phelps said. “But sometimes that doesn’t happen.” Phelps’s comeback from a near two-year retirement was disrupted last year when his second drunk-driving arrest brought a six-month ban from competition. He had trained hard through three prior meetings this season, producing only sluggish race times.
But he said he trusted longtime coach Bob Bowman would have him ready upon arrival in San Antonio. “I had faith in what Bob was doing,” said Phelps, who left runner-up Will Licon trailing home 3.6 seconds adrift. “I had faith that when the time came I’d be able to swim fast.”
Phelps said the three solid races had him feeling like his old self-the scintillating swimmer who won an unprecedented eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games rather than the under-prepared athlete who claimed one individual and two relay golds and two silver medals in 2012 in what he thought would be his last Olympics.
“Maybe since 2008 I haven’t felt this good swimming races back-to-back-to-back,” Phelps said. “It’s a great foundation, a place where we’ve never been in a long time leading up to an Olympics,” he added. “Definitely wasn’t like this leading up to ’12.”
Phelps was slated for one more event on the final day of nationals late yesterday, but the 200m breaststroke, never part of his competition programme, was likely to be little more than a training exercise. He was already looking ahead to the work remaining before Rio.
“I’d like to do a best time at some point,” Phelps said. “That would be really fun. I haven’t done a best time since ’09. So I’d like to see a best time in the next year.” -AFP