By Phillip Whitten
ORLANDO, February 14. THE amazing Michael Phelps continued to demonstrate why he was named World Swimmer of the Year in 2003, winning his fifth event in five tries — in four different disciplines — on this, the final night of competition at the ConocoPhillips US National Swimming Championships in Orlando, Florida. It was a feat that has only been equaled by Phelps, himself.
As is his custom, the 18 year-old from North Baltimore won tonight in Phelpsian style. Swimming the 200 meters individual medley, Phelps clocked an amazing 1:56.80, the third fastest time in history. No other man has ever broken 1:58. Phelps holds the world record at 1:55.94.
Phelps' North Baltimore teammate, Kevin Clements, was second in 2:01.81.
But Phelps was by no means the only story on this balmy Florida evening. Sprinters Roland Schoeman of South Africa, Gary Hall, Jr., of the US, and Michelle Englesman of Australia swam blazing times; Britain's David Davies came from behind to win the men's 1500 meters; and Amanda Beard showed why she is now a genuine threat in the women's individual medley.
The men's 50 freestyle featured one of the fastest fields ever assembled, with five of the eight finalists members of The Race Club, a professional swim club formed by Hall in Islamorada, Florida.
South Africa's Roland Schoeman got a tremendous start and held off a fast-closing Hall, the 2000 Olympic co-champion, to win in 22.12 seconds. Hall followed just 3-hundredths of a second later.
The winning time was Schoeman's second fastest ever — he swam 22.04 to win the US Nationals in 1999 — and would have ranked him second in the world last year.
"I was not expecting to go this fast at all," said Schoeman. I did everything I wanted to here and more. I was unshaved, unrested and focused on our Olympic Trials in two months. This shows that, without a doubt, I'm on target."
A grinning Gary Hall was equally pleased. His time, 22.15, would have ranked fourth in the world last year.
"I guess that's a pretty good time for a slow in-season, old man," said Hall, 29. "I'm definitely on track. This is, by far, my best in-season time and I didn't even rest for this meet."
Another Race Club swimmer, Michelle Englesman, of Australia, won the women's 50 free in a lifetime best 25.17, vaulting her into the mix for the two spots on the Australian team. Maritza Correia, in her best long course performance, was second in 25.53.
Eighteen year-old Briton David Davies pulled off a major upset in winning the 1500 meters freestyle. Trailing American Larsen Jensen, the 800 meter champion, for 1250 meters, Davies sprinted ahead at the 1300-meter mark and just kept pulling away.
Davies touched in a lifetime best 15:02.63, more than six seconds ahead of a dispirited Jensen and third place finisher, Chris Thompson, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist.
The 1500 was truly an international affair with six nations represented among the first nine finishers: Great Britain, the US, Israel, Korea, Ukraine and Venezuela.
The USA's Amanda Beard, the co-world record-holder in the 200 meter breaststroke, who had already won both breaststroke events here, took the 200m individual medley in a fast 2:13.11. Canada's Elizabeth Warden out-touched 14 year-old Katie Hoff for second place in 2:15.25. Hoff's 2:15.26 was a 13-14 NAG record — the third time she has broken that record in two months.
Beard, 22, is now regarded as a genuine threat to win an Olympic medal in the medley.
Japan's Sachiko Yamada completed a distance triple here by winning the women's 1500 meters in convincing fashion in 16:06.13 — more than 17 seconds ahead of US Olympian Diana Munz, who just out-touched 17 year-old Stephanie Carr. Brooke Bennett was fourth, another 13 seconds behind. Earlier Yamada had won both the 400 and 800 freestyle.