By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 12.LESS than an hour after delighting the Water Cube with a world-record swim in the 200 freestyle, Michael Phelps was back in his office for the semifinals of the 200 butterfly. Not surprisingly, it was a stroll for the man who is chasing eight gold medals and made his Olympic debut in the event at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Phelps, as was the case in his prelim swim, coasted through the first 150 meters. He then accelerated a bit for his last lap and touched the wall in 1:53.70, tying his Olympic record from the prelims. Only a stunning turn of events would cost Phelps the gold in this event, and his world record of 1:52.09 is living its last hours.
Japan's Takeshi Matsuda registered the second-fastest qualifying mark, his outing of 1:54.02 good for an Asian record. Russia's Nikolay Skvortsov followed in 1:54.32 while Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, the silver medalist in the 400 individual medley, was next in 1:54.35. China's Wu Peng, the silver medalist at last year's World Champs in Melbourne, was fifth in 1:54.93.
Brazil's Kaio Almeida qualified in the No. 6 spot for the final, behind a time of 1:55.21. Rounding out the field for the medals race were New Zealand's Moss Burmester (1:55.26) and Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski (1:55.35). American Gil Stovall just missed advancing to the final as he was timed in 1:55.36.