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Phelps At The Double In Familiar Waters

Mar 5, 2011  - Craig Lord

USA: Michael Phelps concluded his return to fine form at the USA Swimming Indianapolis Grand Prix with a dominant 1:56.88 victory over world record holder Ryan Lochte (1.59.19) and Markus Rogan (AUT, 2:00.08) in the 200m medley before clocking 48.89sec over 100m freestyle for a fifth win in three days.

No others broke 50sec in the sprint free, while both of Phelps' swift efforts merited a closer look. The medley is his fastest ever outside the summer season, the only spring effort faster his 1:54.98 victory at the 2007 world titles in Melbourne when at peak for a seven-gold-medal winning week hailed by then head US coach Mark Schubert as "the greatest performance of all-time".  

In the whole of 2010, only the sensational 1:54.43 of Lochte at Pan Pacs and Phelps's own season best of 1:55.94 were faster than Phelps today. On freestyle, the 14-time Olympic gold-medal winner has been there before unrested, his best a 48.41 in April 2008, but half a second away from that Phelps is the first in the world below 49sec in 2011. Both medley and freestyle efforts take him to a place where he has stood before: on the edge of a yet another stellar season.

Phelps expressed how he felt through the words of a teammate when he told reporters: "He said, 'You're actually enjoying yourself, and you can see it. You're happy, you're swimming well, and you're having a good time'. That's a part of it, what's changed since Austin [the last grand prix Phelps raced at]."

Back in January, Phelps missed two finals altogether. "It was a joke," said Phelps today. "I literally didn't feel like I got one good thing out of (that) besides swimming slow and realizing that I was out of shape."

He is not back where he wants to be just yet: "My backstroke's horrendous, and there's a lot of work to be done in that IM. The real things we've been focusing on are fly and free, and it shows."

If Phelps, coached by Bob Bowman in Baltimore, had 45mins plus between races, Lochte, coached by Gregg Troy in Florida, was back in 20 minutes after the medley, racing to a 1:57.63 win in the 200m backstroke ahead of Matt Hawes, on 1:58.85, third going to Nick Thoman, on 1:59.66, just ahead of 15-year-old Ryan Murphy, on 1:59.79.     

On Phelps, Lochte said: "He's back; there's no doubt about it ... I honestly think he was never not there."

They, like most others in Indy have not rested to race at peak, that moment ahead of them in Shanghai come July when the world gathers for the last time before the London 2012 Olympic Games.

On the way there, Erica Morningstar (CAN) branched out in style for a 2:12.59 win in the 200m medley ahead of  Julia Smit, on 2:14.11.

Melissa Franklin, 15, notched up another win, this time with a comfortable 2:07.96 win in the 200m backstroke, before taking fourth on 54.93 in the 100m free. At the helm in the sprint was Dana Vollmer, on 54.36, ahead of Jessica Hardy, 54.70, and Victoria Poon (54.88).

Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli (TUN) put in another strong performance with a 15:04.16 victory over 30 laps ahead of Chip Peterson, on 15:15.25.

Results in full

Australia: Queenslander Codie Grimsey upstaged last year’s winner, his brother Trent, and the rest of the Australian field to be crowned national champion in the men’s 5km on day two of the 2011 Australian Open Water Championships at the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith. In 56:32, the Australian found himself second, however, New Zealand's Kane Radford on 56:30, Trent Grimsey on 56:43 for third.