OMAHA -- It may have been Michael Phelps's 27th birthday, but it was the sellout crowd of 14,335 at Omaha's CenturyLink Center that got a treat on Saturday. In another head-to-head race with Ryan Lochte that delivered suspense and goosebumps are there two other athletes anywhere who so reliably deliver on their hype? Phelps won the Olympic trials 200-meter individual medley, touching the wall in a world's best time of 1:54.84, nine one-hundredths of a second ahead of Lochte and nearly four seconds ahead of third-place Conor Dwyer. For those keeping score at home, that gives Phelps two close wins to Lochte's one in their three head-to-head matchups here so far.
One of the biggest questions looming over the 2011 World Swimming Championships, set to begin in Shanghai on Sunday, was resolved on Thursday when the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the world's fastest man in water, Cesar Cielo of Brazil, could defend his world titles in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles despite testing positive for the banned diuretic furosemide in May. (Though the immediate issue of eligibility has been put to rest, the controversy surrounding the CAS decision has surely just begun.)
My first newspaper job after college was at the Vineyard Gazette on Martha's Vineyard, an island in Massachusetts surrounded by sea and ocean, some of it very moody and turbulent. Once a summer, the editor, Henry Hough, would publish an editorial under the headline "Beware the Riptide," or some similar wording. Among other things, the piece told you what to do in a riptide. In that same spirit, and with spring-break here, I'd like to point you to the United States Lifesaving Association Web site, USLA.org, for a primer on safe open-water swimming.
•Michael Phelps won three of four races last weekend at the Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix meet, an early competitive foray into the 2010 season. He placed first in the 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley. He placed second in the 100-meter backstroke.
Sometimes, even veterans make rookie mistakes. Aaron Peirsol is one the greatest swimmers of his generation, arguably the greatest backstroker of all time. But at the swimming world championships on Monday, Peirsol made a bad error in judgment that cost him a spot in the final of the 100-meter backstroke that could have earned him a spot in history Tuesday.
Swimming events begin Sunday at the FINA World Championships in Rome. This will be more than just the Michael Phelps show, though Phelps will swim in six races (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly 200 butterfly and three relays) and will likely come away with six more medals. Here are some of the things for fans of the U.S. team to look for at the championships:
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps suffered his first defeat in a championship race in a year when he lost the 100-meter backstroke to world-record holder Aaron Peirsol at the Charlotte UltraSwim in North Carolina.
Michael Phelps' bid to win an unprecedented eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics is loaded with land mines, or perhaps water mines, in several individual events and at least one relay. This is a look at what Phelps has in store during the nine days of swimming events. Remember that all finals will take place during the mornings in Beijing, which is 12 hours ahead of East Coast time in the U.S. The morning swimming sessions begin at 10:00 AM in Beijing; evening sessions begin at 6:30 PM.
American swimmer Michael Phelps remains on course for his target of eight Beijing gold medals after winning his third event of the Games, taking the men's 200-meter freestyle in a new world record time -- his third in a row.
How does NBC spell ratings? Two words: Michael Phelps. The Golden Boy takes to Water Cube on Tuesday for the men's 200 freestyle final (10:16 p.m. ET on Monday night). "Coming into the competition, I thought that would be one of his easier races," said Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazeneuve, who predicts -- surprise! -- gold for Phelps in the event.
Cullen Jones can still picture the top of the water slide at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania where his life took a fateful turn when he was five years old. His dad Ronald, had made him promise to not let go of the inner tube on the way down, so, Ronald shot down the slide, screaming all the way, Cullen followed, gripping the tube tightly. "When I hit the bottom of the ride, there was this huge pool of water, and I flipped right over," Jones recalls. But he didn't let go of the tube. "I actually passed out," he says. "They had to give me CPR, and when I woke up, I was like, okay, what's the next ride? It could have changed my life completely if it was traumatic. I might never have touched the water again."
They wore matching high-tech Speedo LZR suits and swam in a temporary pool designed for speed. But even as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte pushed each other through a dramatic record chase at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on Sunday night, what brought the crowd of 12,000 to its feet was not merely the clock but also the sight of the greatest swimmer in the world struggling -- in one of his best events, the 400-meter individual medley -- to fight off an unexpectedly formidable rival.
Of all the cruel twists irony can take, this is about as bad as it gets. Lauren English, a senior swimmer at Montville (N.J.) and a potential 2008 Olympian who owns multiple state records and five Meet of Champions titles, suffers from chlorine-induced asthma.
Michael Phelps was flipping through TV channels in his Melbourne hotel room last Friday when, for the first time all week, he was stopped cold. Phelps had come across Pardon the Interruption, and hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser were yapping -- in between Final Four forecasts and spring training rants -- about Phelps's historic performance at the world swimming championships. Where did he belong on the sporting landscape? Was he elevating his niche sport to watercooler status? "Awesome," said Phelps, a sports-TV junkie. "I watch these guys all the time, and now they're talking about swimming."
You are Ryan Lochte. You are a great swimmer, but you are also 22 and it is 2007 and your timing is lousy. For starters, you are a backstroke ace. Backstrokers look up at the stars all the time anyway, but you look up and see Aaron Peirsol, perhaps the greatest backstroker in history. Coming into the world championships here in Melbourne, Peirsol hadn't lost a race at 200 meters since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Remember the historic performance Michael Phelps had at the 2004 Olympics? Eight medals, including six gold? Comparisons to Mark Spitz? Well, why stop there? Phelps is making his own standards seem mortal at the FINA World Championships, where he is on the verge of the greatest single-meet performance in swimming history. Granted, Phelps has completed only three events so far, but it's the way he has owned the pool in those events that is rendering comparisons with anyone other than himself pointless.