By John Lohn
Photos by Peter H. Bick
MONTREAL, Canada, July 26. WELL, we have the answer. It was just one bad race. Two days after failing to reach the final of the 400 freestyle, Michael Phelps broke the American record in the 200 free and walked away with a gold-medal showing. Phelps’ victory and sizzling time provided proof that he’s hardly off his game, and his poor swim in the 400 free preliminaries was an aberration.
The bronze medalist in the event at the Athens Olympics, Phelps produced a time of 1:45.20, just under his former American standard of 1:45.32. In third place at the 50-meter mark, Phelps turned it on during the second leg and was under the world-record pace of Australia’s Ian Thorpe, who owns the global mark at 1:44.06. Phelps had no trouble holding off Australian Grant Hackett, who took silver in 1:46.14. South Africa’s Ryk Neethling was the bronze-medal winner with a time of 1:46.63.
Phelps still has an arduous schedule ahead, as he’s slated to swim the 100 freestyle, 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly in individual action. He’ll also contest the 800 free relay and will participate on the 400 medley relay, whether it be in the prelims or the finals. Phelps’ role with the medley won’t be determined until after the 100 fly and 100 free.
Canada’s Brent Hayden was the fourth-place finisher with a time of 1:46.85 and was followed by Australia’s Nicholas Sprenger (1:47.09) and the United States’ Peter Vanderkaay (1:47.25). Italy’s Emiliano Brembilla was seventh in a time of 1:47.63 and China’s Zhang Lin was eighth in 1:49.45.