By John Lohn and Dana Lawrence Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, August 3. THE man is amazing, pure and simple. Just a few days after scaring the world record in the 200-meter backstroke, Michael Phelps took dead aim at the global standard in the 100 back on Friday night. Storming down the final lap, Phelps touched in a U.S. Open-record time of 53.01, just off the world mark of 52.98, set by Aaron Peirsol at the World Championships in Melbourne in March.
Phelps moved through the first lap in 26.12, in second place to Ben Hesen's split of 25.78. But, Phelps was superb off the wall and ate up the field to take the lead and to put an assault on the world standard. After touching the wall and glancing at the clock, Phelps tossed his head back and placed his hands behind his head, an obvious reaction to the near-miss.
By posting this time, the second-fastest ever, Phelps added further intrigue to what program he might tackle at next year's Olympic Trials and Olympic Games. While the 200 free, both butterfly events and both medley disciplines are likely to be on his program, he has options for a sixth event in the 100 free, 100 back and 200 back.
Coach Bob Bowman from Club Wolverine minced no words in describing how impressed he was with Phelps' performance: "that second 50 was the best I've seen his backstroke look. He came off the wall really well and set it up … and with that 53:01, Michael has earned the morning off tomorrow, and he will only swim in the [400 medley] relay [tomorrow night]." This means that Phelps will bypass the 200 I.M., easily among his most powerful events, thereby paving the path for Ryan Lochte or Eric Shanteau to take a first 2007 US National title.
Grabbing the silver medal was Longhorn's David Cromwell, who became the sixth-fastest American in history with an outing of 53.82. Hesen, a Jeffersonville, Ind., product from Indiana University who earned a hometown hero's welcome during introductions, was third in 54.40 and David Russell of Bluefish was fourth with a mark of 54.70.