Phelps has a record start
OMAHA -- Outdoors in a temporary pool in a parking lot near the ocean. Or indoors in a big modern-day arena in middle America.
World records . . . thy name is Michael Phelps.
Phelps got the U.S. Olympic swim trials at the Qwest Center off to the same start he did four years ago in Long Beach -- uncorking a world record in the 400-meter individual medley in the first final on the opening night.
His classic stroke-for-stroke duel with runner-up Ryan Lochte energized the crowd of 12,316 Sunday night, and then thrilled them with the stunning time, 4 minutes 5.25 seconds.
Lochte himself, at 4:06.08, was under Phelps’ previous world record (4:06.22), which was set in 2007 at the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
“You saw how excited and emotional I was after the race,” Phelps said. “I never take one hand and thrash it in the water. I couldn’t have started the trials off on a better foot.”
Call it an early birthday present for Phelps, who turns 23 today.
Said Lochte, who dropped more than three seconds off his personal best: “Going into the race, I thought I could beat him. I closed the gap pretty well in the breaststroke and that took everything out of me for the freestyle.
“I always feel like he’s beatable. He’s just a regular person. It was my best time, but I hate to lose.”
If that wasn’t enough, there would be another world record and one U.S. record for good measure. The world record came from Katie Hoff, who went 4:31.12 in the 400 individual medley, and a U.S. record from Larsen Jensen of Trojan Swim Club, who won the 400 freestyle in 3:43.53, edging Peter Vanderkaay’s 3:43.73.
“Michael’s kind of a world-record machine,” said Hoff, who reclaimed her world mark, besting Australian Stephanie Rice’s time of 4:31.46, set in March.
“Just to get one is pretty amazing to me.”
Jensen and Vanderkaay went under Vanderkaay’s American mark of 3:43.82, set in May at Santa Clara, Calif.
Jensen went about the race almost unconventionally, knowing he had to take it out fast if he had any chance against the likes of closers Vanderkaay and Erik Vendt, who finished third in 3:43.92. The race was so deep that former U.S.-record holder Klete Keller placed fourth in 3:46.36.
“I knew they had a lot of speed,” Jensen said. “I just gritted my teeth. It’s what I’ve been training for all year.”
He made a point of crediting USC Coach Dave Salo and made special mention of his former coach Bill Jewell, who is now with Fullerton Aquatics, saying that Jewell helped him get his “head screwed” on right in a heart-to-heart talk this year, telling him to “train like a lone wolf.”
With records falling, seemingly every few minutes, someone was bound to get a bit over-excited and that turned out to be breaststroker Brendan Hansen. Hansen said later he heard the race announcer say he was under world-record pace in the semifinals of the 100 breaststroke and it got him slightly off his rhythm.
“Small mistake that tomorrow night I obviously won’t do,” said Hansen, who went 59.24, just off his world record of 59.13.
“I wasn’t expecting to be out that fast, but with this place and this crowd the way it is, the only way I was going to get noticed tonight was if I broke a world record.”
Good point, that.
Phelps said the crowd noise and the presence, and pressure, of his good friend and rival, Lochte, in the next lane, signaled that “something special is going to happen.”
He tried to temper his enthusiasm after the opening 50 and called the race one of the “most painful” of his career.
“I heard the crowd from the first 50 on,” Phelps said. “As soon as I turned, I thought, ‘Oh God, don’t overdo this.’ We still have a long race ahead of us.”
Just as Phelps was pushed by his sidekick, Hoff was motivated by one of the new kids off the blocks, 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel, who caught her attention earlier in the day. Beisel took second in the final, in 4:32.87, and Julia Smit of Stanford was third in 4:35.73.
“It definitely brought my heart rate up a bit,” Hoff said of Beisel’s showing in morning preliminaries. “She definitely pushed me.”
Still, Hoff is hardly blase about world records, saying: “This one’s definitely a shock for me.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Two world records and one U.S. record* were set during the first day of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials:
*--* * Michael Phelps 400 IM 4:05.25 * Katie Hoff 400 IM 4:31.12 * Larsen Jensen* 400 free 3:43.53 *--*
* 39 days until the opening ceremony: For updated news every day, visit The Times’ Olympic Blog at
2008 duels in the pool
* Finals: There will be three more in the evening session of Day 2: the women’s 100-meter butterfly, men’s 100 breaststroke and women’s 400 freestyle. Additionally, there are semifinals in the women’s 100 backstroke, men’s 200 freestyle, women’s 100 breaststroke and men’s 100 backstroke.
* Old guard: Katie Hoff, who reclaimed her world record in the 400 individual medley, will be in action in the 400 freestyle, probably going against rival Kate Ziegler. Michael Phelps, swimming on his 23rd birthday, will be one lane away from buddy Ryan Lochte in the 11th heat in the morning preliminaries of the 200 freestyle. Phelps won’t be swimming in the prelims of the 100 backstroke.
* New guard: Ever so quietly, 22-year-old Christine Magnuson produced the second-fastest American time in the 100 butterfly, going 57.50 in the semifinals. Will she have enough against the likes of Rachel Komisarz, Elaine Breeden and Dana Vollmer in tonight’s final?
* Quotable I: “I abhor doping. It drives me crazy and I just don’t know how to fight it,” Gary Hall Jr. said in a long session with the media.
-- Lisa Dillman