By Phillip Whitten
LONG BEACH, Calif., July 12. SO Michael Phelps, beaten by Aaron Peirsol in the 200 meter backstroke, is not really Superman. But he may be Superman's cousin.
Only 25 minutes after his brilliant duel with Peirsol, young Mr. Phelps was back on the blocks for the final of the 200m IM.
Now, truth be known, Mike didn't have to bust a gut to win this one. He is so dominant in this event he could have cruised and won, saving his energy for the 100 fly. But it's not in Michael's nature to cruise. Part of the reason he's so good is that he always gives his all to every effort.
So it was tonight. Phelps bolted at the start, and by the 100-meter turn, his 54.00 split put him under his own world record pace.
But still a bit tired from the 200 back, he fell off world record pace coming home, finally touching in 1:56.71 — history's third fastest performance.
The real battle was for the second spot and after the 100-meter turn, that battle boiled down to two contenders: Ryan Lochte and Eric Shanteau.
Lochte split the first two legs a few tenths faster than Shanteau and turned halfway through the race in 56.64 seconds to his rival's 57.24.
Shanteau then uncorked a blazing 33.41-second breaststroke split — easily the fastest in the field — to take a lead of almost nine-tenths of a second into the final lap.
Lochte, however, is a much stronger freestyler and he overtook Shanteau just before the flags. At the wall, it was Lchte, 1:59.41; Shanteau, 1:59.75.
Tommy Hannan, a 2000 Olympian in the 100 fly, was fourth. Kevin Clements, Phelps' training partner and the pre-meet pick for second, inexplicably finished fifth in 2:02.60, slower than his semifinal time.