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Peirsol and Bousquet Keep Phelps At Bay

May 18, 2009  - Craig Lord

Michael Phelps finished second in two races at the Charlotte UltraSwim UA grand prix, defeated on both occasions by men in 2009 fast suits. 

In the 100m backstroke, Olympic champion and world record holder Aaron Peirsol - in what looked like an yet-to-be-approved X-Glide but I couldn't be sure - clocked 53.32 to Phelps's 53.79. Phelps emerged to tell reporters: "I don't like to lose. No matter who I'm racing, I hate to lose."

The last time Phelps lost a race was May 17 last year, when Peirsol beat him over 200m backstroke at the Santa Clara meet. "He will definitely be motivated by this," said Bob Bowman, Phelp's coach. "He remembers the races more when he gets beat. It's nice for Michael to remember what it's like to race at the top level. That's good for him."

Phelps said that his legs felt tired towards the end of his race. But then there's a taper and a faster suit to put on at US trials, should FINA decide that such things are allowed for the rest of the year before tighter suit controls come into force next year.

In his second final of the session, Phelps clocked a solid 49.04 for second, well down, of course, on the supercharged efforts of Frenchman Fred Bousquet, on 48.22, his best effort ever after that stand-alone 47.15 from French nationals. Ricky Berens was third in 49.66. All of Bousquet's gain on Phelps was made on the first 50m, Phelps returning faster than the Frenchman despite complaining of heavy legs at this stage in his preparations.

"When you race that guy, you can't count on your back-end speed to beat him," Bousquet told reporters. "I had to use my strength, my speed, and go out as fast as I could - 22.08 was not too bad going out." Indeed not, it would, after all, have been the Frenchman's second-best 50m effort ever (hand on the wall) going into 2008.  "We came back at the same speed in the second 50. That's good for me. I'm happy with it." Phelps was, in fact, 0.17sec faster.

Interestingly, Phelps switched from windill to his classic stroke to try to catch up on a mistimed entry to his turn, before using windmill in the closing metres of the race. A development in progress and interesting times ahead, particularly interesting from 2010 onwards leading to London 2012, by which time the dead-hand of the fast suit will be mere memory if FINA gets it right.

"The biggest thing I'm upset about was my turn and my finish were awful," Phelps said. "I'm kind of mad at myself because I wanted to break 49. To be .05 off with two stupid mistakes, it's frustrating. I usually don't mess up the little things like that. I have to go back and focus. It's a lot of small things I need to fix. There are some things I'm still perfecting. Before long I'll be able to do it for a whole 100."

Bousquet wore his red-hot Jaked for racing. Today in Lausanne, world-leading coaches and the FINA commission on suits meet to discuss the list of suits that have made it past the lax conditions of round one of controls. It is no secret that some of the world's top head coaches would like to see anything approved in 2009 cut out for the world championships in Rome, so convinced are they that FINA's biggest asset will descend into farce and chaos in July.

If FINA rules the Jaked out, Bousquet says that he will "adapt to it". One way or the other, he said: "I will be fine. I'm not going to fight it or go against them. FINA are the masterminds." Quite so, ultimate responsibility theirs, though if swimmers get to wear fast suits, the least they could do is acknowledge the assistance being provided by what they are wearing. Respect follows. There is a huge gulf between Mark Schubert's 2008 statement on the LZR and Speedo's own position - both of those things concluding 'yes, our suit makes swimmers significantly faster' and the position of swimmers and some coaches who say 'it's all down to me, the suit makes no difference'. 

Only this past week, a senior Speedo spokesman talked of Speedo having been proud to be the developer and maker of "the fastest suit in history". Of course, that is no longer the case: the LZR has been overtaken, with suits from Jaked and the likes of the arena X-Glide, yet to be approved by FINA, demonstrating that there is no such thing as "a little performance enhancement", a little "evolution". What you get, when you flick a switch, is another sport, one in which suit makers have clearly not worked with FINA in spirit but pressed on with an "anything goes" approach to competition with their peers.

Bousquet spoke graciously of Phelps and believed that there was much more to come from the American over 100m: "I don't think I will beat him too many more times in the 100. To go 49.0 and change strokes a couple of times during the race, that's very impressive."

Phelps's verdict on his first meet since Beijing: "For my first meet back, it's great," Phelps said. "These are great times for me to swim. I'm right where I want to be. I'm happy to be back in the pool and happy to have my first meet behind me." He will race next at Santa Clara next month, before US trials for Rome 2009 in early July.

Bousquet, meanwhile, may not like swimming 100m mid-season, but he has clearly found the right formula for doing so, the shift in the pattern of his career seismic this past season of the red-hot Jaked. Here's the difference between Bousquet's season bests 2005-2009, aged 24 to 28, showing where he first broke 49sec, in 2006, fell back in 2007, managed three sub-49sec swims with the first wave of "fast suits" and this year in a red-hot number swam four times inside his best ever previous performance, a 47.15 in the final at French nationals a time that stands out from all other efforts as other-worldly:


  • 47.15 April
  • 48.22 May
  • 48.33 April
  • 48.48 March
  • 48.55 March
  • 48.62 February
  • 48.85 April
  • 49.81 May


  • 48.52 April
  • 48.71 April
  • 48.97 April
  • 49.35 June
  • 49.38 April
  • 49.75 February
  • 49.96 March
  • 50.19 June


  • 49.52 June
  • 49.79 February
  • 49.94 March
  • 50.39 August
  • 50.58 June


  • 48.97 August 
  • 49.16 August
  • 49.59 August
  • 50.08 May
  • 51.39 June


  • 49.06 April
  • 49.21 world champs
  • 49.38 world champs
  • 50.56 June
  • 50.69 June

Elsewhere at Charlotte, Elizabeth Beisel, 16, took the 200m backstroke in 2:11.88 ahead of Canada’s Lindsay Seemann (2:13.63) and 14-year-old Annie Harrison (2:14.28). Thiago Pereira (BRA) got the edge over Olympic medallist Ryan Lochte 1:58.25 to 1:58.71 in the 200m medley, with Eric Shanteau third in 2:01.33.