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

1/20/2008

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.