Phelps a double winner, tops personal bests in Olympic year debut

Updated: January 20, 2008, 12:27 AM ET
Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Michael Phelps opened the Olympic year with two victories at the Southern California Grand Prix, swimming his best times in the 100- and 500-yard freestyles Saturday night.

The six-time Olympic gold medalist won the 100 in 41.93 seconds, lowering his own meet record set last year at the Belmont Plaza indoor pool. Phelps beat a field that included Olympic sprinter Jason Lezak.

Later, Phelps stretched out in the 500 free, winning in 4:10.43, again faster than he swam a year ago at this meet.

Phelps beat a loaded field of Olympians, including training partners Erik Vendt and Peter Vanderkaay, by nearly 3 seconds. Klete Keller, who formerly trained with the trio in Ann Arbor, Mich., was fourth, and Larsen Jensen fifth.

Phelps was more impressed with his time in the 100 free, done under the watchful eye of coach Bob Bowman, who arrived Saturday.

"Not many people have broken 41 [seconds]," he said.

Before the race, Bowman asked Phelps what he was going to do.

"It's the 100, go out and finish," Phelps said, smiling.

Phelps and Vendt dueled through the 20-lap longer race, with Vendt briefly taking the lead before Phelps grabbed it back. Vendt finished in 4:13.31.

"It's like having the comfort of home," Vendt said. "Pretty much every day it's me, Michael and Peter duking it out, and having Larsen and Klete in there is great, too."

Phelps and several of the other top swimmers at the year's first major meet are coming off three weeks of altitude training in Colorado.

"I didn't know how my endurance would be, but it was pretty good," Phelps said. "Hopefully, there's more fast times in the future."

Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce won the women's 100; Margaret Hoelzer won the 200 backstroke; and Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno added the 500 free title to her victory in the 1,000 free Friday. Sandeno was fourth in the 200 butterfly.

Matt Grevers, a 22-year-old up-and-comer who trains in Tucson, Ariz., won the men's 200 back. He finished second to Phelps in the 100 free.

"I know he has really good underwater [moves]," Grevers said. "You don't experience it until you're right there next to him and he went right by me. I was like, 'Come back!'"

Mary Descenza, aiming for her first Olympic berth at 23, won the 200 fly and was second to Hoelzer in the 200 back.

"We're under really, really heavy training and I'm pleasantly surprised to go two best times," Descenza said. "I'm a lot further ahead with where I want to be."

The four-day meet is being swum in yards instead of Olympic meters.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press