BARCELONA, July 22. EIGHTEEN year-old Michael Phelps took his first major step toward winning six gold medals at the World Championships today by smashing his own global standard in the semifinals of the 200 meter butterfly.
The teen sensation split an astonishing 54.89 at the 100 meter mark then, spurred on by the screaming crowd at the Palau Sant. Jordi pool, brought it home in 1:53.93. His old mark, set at the World Championships in Fukuoka two years ago, was 1:54.58.
Phelps acknowledged that comments from Don Talbot, the former Australian head coach minimizing his achievements to date — world records in three different events — helped spur him on.
Talbot told Australian media two weeks ago that Phelps was a great swimmer but still had to prove himself at the top level.
"When he said that, that put a lot of fire in me," Phelps told a press conference. "That really got me more fired up than I already was."
Phelps' US teammate, 2000 Olympic champion Tom Malchow, who qualified tied with Britain's Stephen Parry for second in 1:55.90, said: "I really got my drawers blown off in that last 50. Right now, there's absolutely no ceiling to what Michael can do. He's young, he's motivated, he's swimming with a lot of confidence. I think it's going to be a real exciting four or five days coming up."