Phelps sets meet record in Santa Clara
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Even Michael Phelps can be wimpy about the weather.
The superstar from the Beijing Olympics clobbered the competition in the 200-meter butterfly at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix on Friday night.
Phelps touched first in 1 minute, 54.31 seconds, beating the field by 5.67 seconds.
He rarely swims outdoors, so the cool, windy evening wasn't exactly to his liking. Then he had to wait to retrieve his clothes after the event, when the basket containing them ended up at the other end of the pool.
"I'm freezing," he said. "It's a lot warmer in the water."
Phelps' time lowered the meet record of 1:55.93 set by Davis Tarwater last year, and earned him a $100 reward.
"I felt awesome the first 50," he said. "I felt the wind the third 50. I was really happy with the time. It's my second-fastest in-season time ever. I'm in some kind of shape."
Phelps owns the world record of 1:52.03 set in Beijing, where he won a record eight gold medals.
David Mosko was second in 1:59.98, making him and Phelps the only men in the nine-swimmer final to go under 2 minutes.
As usual, Phelps was the center of attention in his second competition since returning from a three-month suspension handed down by USA Swimming. He was punished after a photograph of him using a marijuana pipe surfaced.
He got a big cheer during introductions, then another as he cruised to the wall. Children crowded around him as he waited for his clothes to reappear, and bystanders listened in while he talked with reporters.
"We had a huge crowd tonight. It's great for the sport," Phelps said. "The coolest thing for me is to be able to see the sport changing. Kids coming up now will have it better than we did. People are more interested in the sport now than they ever have been."
Phelps' training partner, Katie Hoff, earned the ninth and last spot in the 400 freestyle, but dropped out of the final because of what coach Bob Bowman described as a bad cough. She won't swim the rest of the meet.
Friday's events were dominated by Olympians from the U.S. and Australia.
Ryan Lochte earned a close victory in the 400 individual medley, an event requiring all four strokes that Phelps has discarded in favor of shorter distances.
Lochte, the bronze medalist in the Beijing, won in 4:18.62, just ahead of Robert Margalis, who was second in 4:18.84.
"The 400 IM is one of the hardest races to swim," said Lochte, who joked that he doesn't really know the breaststroke very well. "It's good for my training."
Like Phelps, Lochte took a major break after the Olympics, abandoning the pool for six months in favor of skateboarding and surfing.
"I was burned out," he said. "It's hard to get back into things. The first time I jumped in, I felt like I was an age-group swimmer again."
Leisel Jones of Australia, the silver medalist in Beijing, won the 200 breaststroke in 2:23.92, lowering her own meet record from two years ago and earning $100.
Sporting jet black hair instead of her usual blond, Jones is competing selectively this year and choosing to skip next month's world championships in Rome.
"Everyone else is comparing times. I just get in there and race," she said.
When she's not training, Jones is studying at beauty school, learning massage, manicures, waxing and hair styling, and has plans to open her own spa by year's end.
"It's a nice way to break up swimming," she said. "I've had nine years of representing Australia. It does get really consuming. I didn't want to go in there (Rome) halfheartedly when someone else could have that spot."
Aussie Brenton Rickard, who was fifth in Beijing, won the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.44. His countrywoman, Meagen Nay, won the 400 freestyle in 4:08.74, ahead of Olympian Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe. Rising American teenager Dagny Knutson was fourth.
Ricky Berens won the 200 free in 1:47.18. He earned a gold medal when Phelps & Co. won the 800 free relay in Beijing, where Berens swam in the preliminaries.
Dana Vollmer, a 2004 Olympian, was a double winner. She took the 100 free in 54.23, and the 100 fly in 58.40, beating Stephanie Rice of Australia, a triple gold medalist in Beijing.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press