By John Lohn
MONTREAL, Canada, July 25. THAT’S more like it. Swimming in the semifinals of the 200 freestyle, Michael Phelps looked like the athlete we’ve been accustomed to watching, as he led all qualifiers with a time of 1:46.33. The swim was more than a second faster than the second-fastest qualifying mark, a 1:47.37 effort by Italy’s Emiliano Brembilla.
Missing the final in the 400 freestyle on Sunday, Phelps seems to have returned to form and will be favored on Tuesday night when he climbs the blocks against the likes of Australia’s Grant Hackett. The bronze medalist in the event from Athens, Phelps holds the American record. Aussie Nicholas Sprenger was third fastest, going 1:47.57 and Hackett checked in at 1:47.66.
Hackett is coming off a gold-medal showing in the 400 freestyle, but will have to increase his speed for the 200 free final. He was followed in fifth position by Canada’s Brent Hayden (1:48.00) and in sixth by South Africa’s Ryk Neethling (1:48.05). China’s Lin Zhang was seventh with a time of 1:48.10 and the United States’ Peter Vanderkaay earned the last final spot, thanks to a swim of 1:48.11.