Crocker sets world mark in 100 butterfly


LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Six events, seven days, four wins, two losses.

Michael Phelps proved he's up for the physical challenge of trying to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals in one Olympics. What he learned at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials is
his own teammates could foil his historic attempt in Athens.

For the second straight night, Phelps lost a race, getting beaten by another world-record performance. This time, it was Ian Crocker who withstood Phelps' challenge on the final lap and won the 100-meter butterfly Tuesday night.

"I've never been under that kind of stress in a meet before," Phelps said. "I'm very relieved it's over."

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, plan to decide Wednesday or Thursday whether to swim all six individual races in Athens, or go with a lighter schedule that might keep the 19-year-old swimmer
stronger, but give him fewer chances to beat Spitz.

Phelps has qualified for at least one relay and also wants to swim the other two, giving him as many as nine races at the Olympics. He and Bowman will choose "the things we feel most confident swimming," Phelps said.

In the 100 fly, Crocker set a world record of 50.76 seconds, lowering his mark of 50.98 set at last year's world championships. It was the sixth world record of the trials.

"He definitely took me out in the first 50," Phelps said. "I was too far behind and couldn't play catch-up."

Phelps earned the second Olympic berth in 51.15, the fourth-fastest time in history, but not quick enough.

"I wanted to give myself something to look forward to, kind of a confidence booster going into Athens," Crocker said. "I'm excited to really let it rip in Athens."

So is Aaron Peirsol, who beat Phelps in the 200 backstroke final Monday -- also setting a world record.

Gary Hall Jr. will go to Athens to defend his title as the world's fastest Olympic swimmer after beating Jason Lezak in the 50 freestyle. It was Hall's third consecutive trials victory in swimming's most chaotic race.

"I love the 50 free. It's the best event the sport has to offer," Hall said. "It's just all out. It's part of my
personality -- all or nothing -- and that's what the 50 free is all about."

Hall will be trying to win his second straight gold in the 50 free, having tied Anthony Ervin at Sydney four years ago. Hall equaled the sixth-fastest time in history at 21.91, while Lezak touched second in 22.05.

Hall put on a show for the fans at the temporary pool on the Long Beach shoreline. He got out of the water, climbed atop a starting block and bowed. Then, he walked around wearing a stars-and-stripes boxing robe with his name in script on the back.

"I just wanted to get to the other end of the pool," Hall said. "Last one there is a rotten egg."

Diana Munz rebounded after not qualifying in the 400 freestyle to earn an Olympic berth in the 800 free. She barely touched ahead of Kalyn Keller, winning in 8:26.06. Keller finished in 8:26.33.

Brooke Bennett, the two-time defending Olympic champion, finished third in 8:29.39 and won't be going to Athens. It was her best time since having two shoulder operations in 2001, but nearly 10 seconds slower than her winning time in Sydney.

"I lost a little bit of confidence this week," said Bennett, who failed to make the team in the 400 free. "I gave it a good fight."

Margaret Hoeltzer won the 200 backstroke in 2:11.88, benefiting from the absence of American record-holder Natalie Coughlin. She skipped the event to focus on the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
The second spot on the team was claimed by Kristen Caverly at 2:12.70.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet," Hoeltzer said. "Just to see No. 1 by your name and know what that means, wow!"

The eight-day trials end Wednesday night with finals in the women's 50 free and men's 1,500 free.

Jenny Thompson goes into the 50 free final as the top qualifier. She won her semifinal heat in 25.11. Kara Lynn Joyce, an upset winner in the 100 freestyle, was second fastest in 25.23.

Coughlin, swimming the event just for fun, qualified fifth in 25.39.

Erik Vendt, already on the team in the 400 individual medley, will try to earn a spot in the 1,500 free. He was the leading qualifier at 15:18.15.