Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Phelps takes 200m free

US OLYMPIC TEAM TRIALS Michael Phelps has entered six individual events in the trials and plans to be in three team relays with an eye on taking seven gold medals

AP , LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly semifinal during the US Olympic Team Trials at the Charter All Digital Aquatic Center in Long Beach, California, Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Michael Phelps is 2-for-2.

The Mark Spitz wannabe earned a second spot on the US Olympic team Friday, winning the 200m freestyle to set up a possible head-to-head showdown with Ian Thorpe at the Athens Games.

Phelps came back 42 minutes later and won his heat in the 200m butterfly, advancing to today's final.

He has entered six individual events at the American trials with an eye toward breaking Spitz's record of seven Olympic gold medals, set 32 years ago at Munich. The 19-year-old from Baltimore also hopes to swim in all three relays.

Before setting odds on a Phelps-vs.-Thorpe matchup, the American left open the possibility of withdrawing from the 200m free in Athens if it interferes with his other events.

"We're still going to have to see how things play out," Phelps said. "I love to race the best. It definitely would be a little appealing."

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

In the day's other final at the portable pool set up along the waterfront in Long Beach, Amanda Beard made her third straight Olympic team by beating a loaded field in the 100m breaststroke. She held off three other former Olympians and four-time NCAA college champion Tara Kirk.

For the first time, a day passed without a world record being set. New marks were set on each of the first two days of the trials, which run through Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Phelps broke his own world record in the 400m individual medley. He didn't come close to Thorpe's mark in the 200m free, touching the wall in 1 minute, 46.27 seconds, but at least earned a chance to face the Australian in an individual race.

None of Phelps' other events -- the 200m and 400m individual medleys, 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m backstroke -- will match him against the Thorpedo, who has basically become a freestyle specialist.

Phelps is anything but specialized. At Athens, he'll try to pull off the most amazing all-around feat in swimming history and eclipse one of sport's most revered records -- Spitz's seven golds.

Knowing he had another race to go, Phelps didn't push too hard in the 200m free. He fell short of his American record, 1:45.99, and was more than 2 seconds shy of Thorpe's world mark, 1:44.06.

Phelps was hurt by a poor start -- he hit 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.

"He just never gets rattled," Bowman said. "That's how he does it."

Keller, who already had made the team by winning the 400m free, likely claimed another spot by taking second at 1:46.87.

In the 200m fly, Phelps moved on to the final with the best semifinal time, 1:56.66. He'll be matched against Tom Malchow, the defending gold medalist from Sydney.

Peirsol just missed Krayzelburg's world record, coming up four-hundredths short in 53.64. Krayzelburg kept his mark and, as a bonus, claimed an expected spot on the Olympic team by touching the wall second. He was a mere tenth of a second ahead of Peter Marshall.

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