Sun, Aug 09, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Phelps breaks 200m butterfly record

EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER:The swimmer’s coach, Bob Bowman, said he was proud of Phelps, who described this year as ‘brutal,’ following a ban and addicition treatment


Michael Phelps competes in the men’s 200m butterfly event at the US Swimming National Championships in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday.

Photo: AP

Michael Phelps showed he is still a formidable force as the Rio Olympics approach, clocking a stunning 1 minute, 52.94 seconds to win the 200m butterfly at the US Swimming National Championships on Friday.

“This next year is going to be pretty damn fun,” a laughing Phelps said after posting the fastest time in the world this year — eclipsing Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh’s FINA World Championships-winning time of 1 minute, 53.48 seconds in Kazan, Russia, this week.

It was the fastest time Phelps has produced in the event since he set the world record of 1 minute, 51.51 seconds in 2009 — and is two-hundredths of a second faster than the 1 minute, 52.96 seconds South African Chad le Clos swam to deny Phelps gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

“It is a good feeling to be back,” Phelps said. “I think we are in a pretty good place right now.”

Phelps was cheered wildly by fans in San Antonio, who stamped on the bleachers and screamed as he squinted to see his time.

When he did, Phelps gave a little “No. 1” wag of his finger, and as the cheers grew slapped the water in celebration.

“It is good to do it on my own soil — in the country that I represent,” said Phelps, whose drunk-driving arrest in September last year cost him his berth at the worlds.

Swimming in a US National Championships that amounts to a consolation meet, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist showed his campaign to make the Rio Games is right on track, despite a six-month ban from competition and addiction treatment, during which he dealt with personal demons in a journey he described this year as “brutal.”

“I think it just shows you anything is possible if you want something bad enough,” Phelps said.

Coach Bob Bowman called it one of the best races he has ever seen from the swimmer, whose resume includes his glittering eight-gold campaign in Beijing in 2008.

“It was really nice to see that fire,” Bowman said after Phelps left Matt Conger a distant second in 1 minute, 54.54 seconds by more than 1.5 seconds.

“The way he raced that, that was really gutsy, because he is honestly still not in perfect shape for the last 50 [meters] of it, and he just gutted it out,” Bowman added.

Bowman said it was a validation of Phelps’ dedication to getting his life in order, in and out of the pool.

“It all goes together,” Bowman said. “All this stuff has really weighed on him. He has dealt with a lot of stuff and dealt with it well.”

“I’m really proud of that, because it would have broken a lot of people,” he added.

Bowman said the setbacks and sluggish performances this season had left room for doubt, even when he knew Phelps, who turned 30 years old on June 30, was racing in the midst of hard training.

He was not surprised to see Phelps’ emotions spill over after the races, saying he got a little choked up, too.

“It has been a long, hard road to get here and you never really know if you are going to get back to that level — that is the real level,” Bowman said.

When he launched his comeback from a near two-year retirement last year, the 200m fly did not appear to figure in Phelps’ plans.

He was unable to break two minutes in the event at a meeting in Charlotte, North

Carolina, in May, but showed what is to come on Friday morning when he cruised to victory in his heat in 1 minute, 55.51 seconds.

As for the winning time, Bowman said: “I think some people will be very surprised.”

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