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Phelps back in grand style at US titles
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15:19, August 03, 2007

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Michael Phelps grabbed the spotlight at the US swimming nationals on Wednesday, scooping a pair of titles while narrowly missing out on a world record in the 200m backstroke in Indianapolis.

Phelps, who set himself an ambitious 10-event program at the Indiana University Natatorium pool, got the meet off to a quiet start on Tuesday failing to qualify for the final of the 200 breaststroke.

But the 22-year-old stamped his mark on the championships on Wednesday, winning the 200 backstroke and later helping the Michigan Wolverines to victory in the 4x100 freestyle relay to take his tally of national titles to 34.

Phelps, who is rarely able to work the 200 backstroke into his program, led from the horn storming to the wall in a time of one minute, 54.65 seconds, just .33 off the world record of 1:54.32 set by Ryan Lochte at the world championships in March.

Chris Dejong was a distant second in 1:56.75 while Lochte could finish no better than fourth after winning the 400 individual medley an hour earlier.

"Going into the last 50 I actually knew what the pace was - I knew it was 1:25 flat," Phelps said. "The thing I wanted to see was a 1:24, so when it said 1:25 I thought, 'This isn't good.'

"The last 25 I started to tighten up so, I didn't get it (the world record). But that's what keeps me hungry - being so close to something and not getting it.

"But I had nothing left in the tank."

A few surprises

Dana Torres, a 40-year-old mother, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team, showed she still has what it takes by touching first in the 100 freestyle.

Torres, who competed in her first Olympics at the 1984 Summer Games, led from the gun beating Amanda Weir to the wall in a time of 54.45 secs.

"You can't put an age on your dreams," Torres said. "It's great to be back swimming against these young swimmers."

David Walters was also a surprise winner of the men's 100 free, clocking 48.96 to pip Ryk Neethling, a member of South Africa's gold medal relay team from the 2004 Athens Olympics, by .02 of a second.

With world record holder Phelps choosing not to swim the 400 individual medley, Lochte romped to an easy win, the world championship silver medalist roaring home in 4:13.55, more than two seconds clear of Erik Vendt, the winner of the 1,500 free.

With Katie Hoff watching her world-record event from the deck, Caitlin Leverenz, the 200 breaststroke champion at the recent Panamerican Games, powered her way to victory in the 400 individual medley touching in 4:40.81 ahead of 17-year-old Kathleen Hersey, a quadruple gold medalist at the Panams.

In the women's 200 backstroke, Katie Hoff clocked a personal best 2:10.31 to claim victory.

Mary Descenza was second in 2:11.26, while Katie Riefenstahl was third in 2:11.67.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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