Crocker sets butterfly world record to upstage Phelps

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2003

BARCELONA, Spain Ian Crocker looked at the clock and thought there was a big mistake.

No mistake.

Crocker, not U.S. teammate Michael Phelps, set a world record Saturday in the 100-meter butterfly finals at the World Swimming Championships.

When a startled Crocker saw his time, he shouted ''what,'' gave a palms-up shrug of disbelief, then embraced Phelps across the lane ropes.

''A lot of people would say I had full confidence in myself going into the race,'' Crocker said. ''But deep down you've got to say: 'Hey, it's Michael Phelps.'''

Phelps, after all, had already broken four world records in the championships, including the 100 butterfly on Friday.

Crocker was timed in 50.98 seconds for the gold medal while Phelps won the silver in 51.10 the two fastest times in history. Andrii Serdinov of Ukraine, who held the world mark for five minutes Friday before Phelps snatched it, took the bronze in 51.59.

Crocker, a 20-year-old University of Texas swimmer, was America's best 100 butterflyer until Phelps came along.

''I've wanted to go 51 (seconds) for a long time but I guess I've skipped that one and I'll take the 50,'' Crocker said. ''I don't know what to think right now. I'm in shock. I feel like someone's going to wake me up and it's going to be time to swim today.''

Crocker, who was ''one of those kids who couldn't get out of the guppy group when I started to swim,'' seems to thrive on being underestimated.

''In some ways it's kind of an advantage to be an underdog if you have the drive,'' he said. ''When my American record disappeared last summer, a fire was lit.''

Phelps, 18, has been invincible. He has upstaged Australia's Ian Thorpe in the championships; he could be in line for a soft-drink endorsement; and at the Athens Olympics he's expected to challenge Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals.

''As you all know, I hate to lose,'' said Phelps, who hasn't been beaten in the race in two years. ''This is going to drive me even more. And I'm sure it's going to drive Ian even more.''

The 100 butterfly may be Phelps' weakest event, even though he shaved 0.37 seconds off his time in each of his last two races setting a world record in one.

Before the 100 butterfly record fell, Phelps on Friday was one of only three male swimmers to hold four individual world records at once, joining Spitz and Michael Gross. Phelps still owns three world marks: 200 individual medley, 200 butterfly and 400 IM. He swims the 400 IM on Sunday and the 400 medley relay.

Phelps has won gold in the 200 IM and 200 butterfly, with silver in the 800 freestyle relay to go with the 100 fly.

In other events, triple Olympic champion Inge De Bruijn won the 50 butterfly, her first gold of the championships.

Olympic champion Hungary won the gold medal in men's water polo, defeating Italy 11-9 in overtime. Serbia-Montenegro defeated Greece 5-3 for the bronze medal.

De Bruijn clocked 25.84, beating silver medalist and eight-time Olympic champion Jenny Thompson of the United States (26.00) and bronze medalist Anna-Karin Kammerling of Sweden (26.06). Kammerling set the world record of 25.57 last year.

In the 50 freestyle final, world record-holder Alexander Popov won his third gold medal of the championships. Popov, who won his first two Olympic golds at the 1992 Barcelona Games, finished in 21.92 to beat Britain's Mark Foster (22.20) and Pieter van den Hoogenband (22.29) of the Netherlands.

Popov won the 100 freestyle on Thursday and was a member of Russia's winning 400 freestyle relay team.

The Chinese team of Zhan Shu, Luo Xuejuan, Zhou Yafei and Yang Yu won gold in the women's 400 medley relay in 3:59.89, ahead of silver medalist United States (4:00.83) and bronze medalist Australia (4:01.37).

Zhou swam the third leg (butterfly) and collapsed afterward. She briefly lost consciousness on the pool deck but recovered and made it to the medal podium. She attributed her blackout to exhaustion.

Germany's Hannah Stockbauer won the gold in a tight 800 freestyle. Stockbauer (8:23.66) beat silver medalist Diana Munz of the United States (8:24.19), while Britain's Rebecca Cooke took bronze (8:28.45).

Britain's Katy Sexton won the 200 backstroke (2:08.74) ahead of silver medalist Margaret Hoelzer of the United States (2:09.24) and bronze medalist Stanislava Komarova of Russia (2:10.17).

De Bruijn also topped the 50 freestyle semifinals (24.75). Germany's Thomas Rupprath posted the fastest time (25.07) in the 50 backstroke semifinals.

Lenny Krayzelburg, the American who holds the world record of 24.99 in the 50 backstroke, is recovering from shoulder surgery and is not competing.

Luo Xuejuan of China (30.64) led the women's 50 breaststroke semifinals.

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