By Phillip Whitten
ORLANDO, Florida, February 11. THE amazing Michael Phelps added to his growing legend tonight when he swam the second fastest 200 meter backstroke in history at the ConocoPhillips U.S. Spring National Championships in Orlando.
Phelps, 18, who holds world records in the 200 meter butterfly and the 200 and 400 meter individual medley, clocked 1:55.30, just 15-hundredths of a second off the global standard established by Aaron Peirsol two years ago at this meet. What makes Phelps' swim even more impressive is that it came while he still is in the midst of heavy training.
Canada's Keith Beavers was the only other swimmer to crack two minutes, as he touched in 1:59.85.
The anticipated battle between Phelps and 2000 Olympic champion Lenny Krayzelburg never came off when Krayzelburg false-started and was disqualified.
Phelps also won the 100 meter freestyle. Turning in seventh place at the 50 meter mark in 24.18 seconds, he came storming back to overtake the field and touch in 49.05, more than half a second in front of South Africa's Ryk Neethling (49.57).
Five men broke broke 50 seconds in the event. France's Roman Barnier was third in 49.61; South African Roland Schoeman, who recently set an African record at 48.69 seconds, was fourth in 49.93 while veteran Neil Walker was fifth in 49.95.
The event, which many anticipated as a showdown between Phelps and Jason Lezak, who tore up the World Cup circuit this winter, lost some of its appeal when Lezak scratched. His coach, Dave Salo, said his star sprinter was "very tired" and planned "only to swim the 50 and the [400m freestyle and medley] relays."
Amanda Beard, who equaled the world record for 200 meters breaststroke at last July's World Championships in Barcelona, destroyed an outstanding field with ease tonight, clocking a very fast 2:24.97. She led virtually all the way, splitting 1:10.23 – 1:14.74.
Japan's Masami Tanaka was a distant second in 2:29.41 followed one second later by 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Kristy Kowal.
In the absence of Phelps, 2000 Olympic champion Tom Malchow won the 200 meter butterfly, overtaking Japan's Takashi Yamamoto to win in 1:57.06.
Vlad Polyakov, who represents Russia but lives and trains in Florida, beat out Kevin Clements in a two-man 200 meter breaststroke race. Polyakov clocked 2:14.36 to Clements' 2:15.07.
Veteran Lindsay Benko, 27, outswam up-and-comer Amanda Weir, 17, to take the women's 100m free in 55.43 seconds to Weir's 55.84. Three other women dipped under 56: Colleen Lanne, 55.92; Dana Vollmer, 55.94; and Courtney Shealy, 55.96.
Unhealded Pam Hanson and Noelle Bassi took the 200 back and 200 fly, respectively. Hanson, a Tennessee graduate, took the dorsal event in 2:13.56 ahead of Jamie Reid, 2:14.23. Canadian Elizabeth Warden, who led through the final turn, faded to fourth over the final 50 meters.
Bassi, 20, edged 15 year-old Elaine Breeden in the fly, 2:10.96 to 2:11.22. Britain's Georgina Lee, the top qualifier, was third in 2:11.63, while 2000 Olympic champion Misty Hyman, who has battled illness all winter, was eighth.