Olympics, Swimming: Michael Phelps Paces 200 Fly Prelims With Olympic Record

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 11. WITH the latest version of the United States' Dream Team in attendance, Michael Phelps put on a small show during the preliminaries of the 200 butterfly. Opening the event that first made him an Olympian and introduced him to the world, Phelps easily qualified first for the semifinal round.

Expending minimal energy during the first three laps, Phelps picked up the tempo on his final 50, rocketing by Brazil's Kaio Almeida and registering an Olympic-record time of 1:53.70. Phelps held the former Games standard of 1:54.04, set in Athens four years ago. Phelps owns the world record in the event at 1:52.09.

Coming off a silver medal and European record in the 400 individual medley, where he finished second to Phelps, Hungary's Laszlo Cseh was the second-fastest qualifier of the prelims. Cseh clocked a personal best of 1:54.48. Almeida, meanwhile, was third overall behind a mark of 1:54.65, also a personal best.

Japan's Takeshi Matsuda checked in with the fifth-best time, an effort of 1:55.06. He was followed by Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski (1:55.21) and Russia's Nikolay Skvortsov (1:55.33). China's Wu Peng, the silver medalist at last year's World Championships, had a strong finish to advance in the seventh slot with a mark of 1:55.39. America Gil Stovall, also closing well, was next in 1:55.42.

Completing the field for the semifinals were Great Britain's Michael Rock (1:55.55), New Zealand's Moss Burmester (1:55.80), Japan's Ryuichi Shibata (1:55.82), Austria's Dinko Jukic (1:55.96), Romanian Stefan Gherghel (1:56.09), the Ukraine's Sergii Advena (1:56.24), China's Chen Yin (1:56.55) and Chinese Taipei's Hsu Chi-Chieh (1:56.59).