Michael Phelps helped the US set five world short-course records and dominate Europe in the Duel in the Pool on Friday.
The Americans won 11 of the 14 events to lead 89-33 at the halfway point of the two-day meet at Manchester Aquatics Centre.
“We wanted to come here and try to keep the ball rolling and it’s definitely a good start,” Phelps said. “Everything’s a stepping stone to 2012.”
In Phelps’ first competitive appearance in England, the 14-time Olympic champion demonstrated he was focused on London 2012.
While most of his competitors are sucking every last second in the pool out of the high-tech suits that will be outlawed on Jan. 1, Phelps continued to sacrifice short-term gain to get reacquainted with the old-style, textile knee-length outfits.
Phelps hopes that will give him a decisive edge over competitors later, although it saw him fail to win a single race at two World Cup short-course meets in Europe last month.
“I’m definitely happier about how things went here, having the opportunity to swim short-course meters again since the World Cup,” Phelps said. “I was faster here than I was there. It just shows things are moving in the right direction. Ever since the World Cups I’ve been wearing the Jammer and that’s probably what I’m going to wear for the rest of my career with the rule changes. To come back to the Jammer means putting more time and energy into having to work harder and having to make sure I’m in better shape.”
In the 4x100m medley relay, Phelps swam the third leg as the US men set a world record of 3 minutes, 20.71 seconds, breaking the 3:23.33 set by Canada in August. Nick Thomas’ backstroke leg set an individual world record of 48.94 seconds.
Despite the slower suit, Phelps touched ahead of Benjamin Starke of Germany to win the 100m butterfly, but he had to settle for third in the 100m freestyle. Teammate Nathan Adrian won the race, followed by Italy’s Marco Orsi. Both were wearing the polyurethane performance-enhancing suits.
The competition started with the US women winning the medley relay in 3:47.97, with Jessica Hardy swimming the second leg as they bettered the world record of 3:49.45 set by Canada in August.
Unlike Phelps, Hardy might not be returning to England for the Olympics, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport set to determine her eligibility for competition on March 12.
Hardy served a one-year ban after testing positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol before the Beijing Olympics. In May, the American Arbitration Association found the failed test was caused by a contaminated nutritional supplement and requested that Hardy not lose her Olympic eligibility.
Two more world records were set by US women. Julia Smit triumphed in the 400 individual medley in 4:21.04, surpassing 4:22.88 set by Kathryn Meaklim of South Africa last month.
Olympic champion Rebecca Soni clocked 2:14.57 in the 200 breaststroke to take down the 2:15.42 set by Leisel Jones of Australia last month.
The only European victories were delivered by Britons: Fran Halsall in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and Lizzie Simmonds in the 200 backstroke.
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