Cullen Jones earns final spot

Updated: May 12, 2011, 9:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cullen Jones kicked off the Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix Thursday by securing the final spot on the U.S. world championship squad, beating Josh Schneider in a rare, 50-meter freestyle swim-off by four-hundredths of a second.

Jones clocked a time of 22.24 seconds.

"We love training with each other," said Jones, who attended North Carolina State and trains in Charlotte with Schneider. "But I'd never wish this upon anyone."

Schneider's journey to the swim-off began with a tie with Jones at the U.S. championships last August. He had to go through an appeals process because of a disqualification at that event, and then recovered from a hand injury on top of that.

The result was an unusual swim-off scheduled nine months after the tie that both swimmers agreed to, providing a buzz on an otherwise non-eventful opening day for the annual meet.

"I'm disappointed," Schneider said. "We knew what it would take to win this. Neither of us got the time that we wanted, but it was a good race. It's time to get back to work."

Chloe Sutton, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, won the women's 1500-meter long-course freestyle in 16:16.11, ahead of Andreina Pinto. Sean Ryan, the fastest American high school swimmer at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials at age 15, won the 800-meter long-course freestyle in 8:11.10, ahead of Joseph Arnold.

Michael Phelps watched nearly a decade of dominance end in his signature event last month, then blamed his poor performance on a period of training that even he said lacked drive and focus.

He doesn't have any intention of letting it happen again.

The 14-time Olympic gold medalist is returning to the pool at the event this week, the sixth stop on the USA Swimming Grand Prix series and the first since Phelps finished fourth in the 200-meter butterfly in Ann Arbor, Mich.

It was Phelps' first defeat in the event since the Pan Pacific Championships in 2002.

"It was obviously frustrating, because [the streak] was something I wanted to keep going my entire career," said Phelps, looking relaxed and sporting a backward retro cap from his hometown Baltimore Orioles on Thursday. "I've used it as motivation."

Phelps plans to pare back his schedule in Charlotte, swimming the 200 freestyle, the 200 backstroke and the 200 fly at Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center.

"To be honest, it's probably what I needed," Phelps said. "I was playing with fire, and I got burnt pretty hard, and it was a fairly big one. It's better that it came at a Grand Prix meet than at a national championship or Olympics."

When Phelps finally gets in the pool, he's likely to get the best that Olympic teammate and longtime rival Ryan Lochte has to offer.

Lochte believes that Phelps has put his disappointment in Michigan behind him.

"He's human," Lochte said. "It proves that anyone can win on any given day. It obviously made him upset, and he seems more focused. That's good for him, but it also helps the other swimmers here. It's good for the sport."

It's also part of a learning experience for Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, who carries a different objective for Phelps than he might have in the past.

"We're trying to find the optimum level for him, to put in place certain blocks to build this house," Bowman said. "Leading up to Beijing, any time we had the opportunity to do more, we did it. Not now. The challenge now is more clear. He's much more mature, more experienced, and the focus in training has been different."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.