By Phillip Whitten
LONG BEACH, Calif., July 12. HALF an hour after winning the 200 IM, and a handful of minutes after accepting his award for the 200m backstroke and parading around the pool deck to acknowledge the crowd's appreciation, Michael Phelps was ready for his final test of his toughest day: a semifinal heat of the 100 meter butterfly.
Once again, Phelps responded with a superb effort, as he touched in 51.89 seconds.
But his rival, world record-holder Ian Crocker, is relentless. Responding to Michael's effort, Crocker uncorked an even faster 51.25 to win the second heat. The time is history's third fastest and easily the quickest time in the world this year.
Watch out when these two clash in tomorrow's final.
After his Herculean effort this evening, a relieved Michael Phelps sighed:
“I am happy it’s over. It’s good to get that out of the way. I know I can do that schedule in Athens.”
Interestingly, the eight finalists finished in exactly the same order as they did in prelims, all but one improving his time. Peter Verhoef is third, in 53.27; Daniel Di Toro is fourth, 53.30, and Ben Michaelson is fifth, 53.36.