Crocker sets world record, tops Phelps

Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2005


  USA's Michael Phelps comes up for air to win the silver medal in the men's 100-meter butterfly final at the World Aquatics Championships Saturday, July 30, 2005 in Montreal. AP Photo/CP, Frank Gunn

USA's Michael Phelps comes up for air to win the silver medal in the men's 100-meter butterfly final at the World Aquatics Championships Saturday, July 30, 2005 in Montreal.

AP Photo/CP, Frank Gunn

MONTREAL — For the last two years, everyone at the pool was chasing Michael Phelps.

Now, he's the one playing catch-up.

Phelps was soundly beaten Saturday in his final individual race of the World Swimming Championships. Up ahead, American rival Ian Crocker broke his own world record in the 100-meter butterfly.

''Every thing that has happened this week is a wake-up call,'' Phelps said. ''It's all going to be used for motivation.''

Crocker turned a much-anticipated rematch with Phelps into a rout, reversing their roles at the Athens Olympics. This time, Crocker was the one celebrating a victory, while Phelps could only offer a congratulatory handshake across the ropes and settle for silver.

''It was definitely my goal to break the record,'' Crocker said. ''When you're racing against Phelps, you always have to assume it's going to take a world record to win.''

It wasn't needed, but Crocker broke the record anyway in 50.40 seconds — easily beating his previous mark of 50.76 from last summer.

''He's insane in a good way,'' teammate Aaron Peirsol said. ''It's amazing someone so sedate can create so much power at the drop of a hat.''

Phelps finished second in 51.65.

''I haven't trained much fly this year,'' the runner-up said. ''But I don't want to use that as an excuse. That was a horrible swim for me.''

The teammates were virtually even off the blocks, but Crocker already had a sizable lead when their heads emerged from the water. He was about a half-body length ahead at the turn, and Phelps couldn't manage one of his patented charges in the final 50 meters.

With arms pumping furiously, Crocker stretched out his advantage all the way to the wall to defend his title from the 2003 world championships.

While Phelps has won four golds medals and, now, a silver at these championships, he's not happy with his performance. He failed to qualify for the final of one race, was a disappointing seventh in another and won't get a chance to swim in Sunday's 400 medley relay final after losing to Crocker.

Phelps' last swim in Montreal will be a morning preliminary. Clearly, this isn't the same athlete who dominated the 2003 worlds in Barcelona (five world records) and last year's Olympics (six golds, eight medals overall).

Phelps has won two of his golds on relay teams, so Australian Grant Hackett — with three medals and his best event to go — is likely to win the most individual medals on the men's side.

''Things are how they are, and there's nothing I can do about it,'' Phelps said. ''This past year wasn't the best training year for me, and that showed.''

Seventeen-year-old Kate Ziegler was in peak condition, emerging as America's next great female distance swimmer. She won the 800 freestyle to go along with an earlier victory in the 1,500 free.

The youngster finished more than two seconds ahead of Canada's Brittany Reimer in 8 minutes, 25.31 seconds. The real race was for second, with Reimer holding off Olympic champion Ai Shibata of Japan by 0.27.

''It helped to have done well in the 1,500,'' Ziegler said. ''I had a lot of confidence. I knew my endurance was there.''

The Australian women won two more golds, led by the powerful 400 medley relay team.

They missed breaking their own world record by only 15-hundredths of a second, settling for a meet record of 3:57.47.

Natalie Coughlin gave the Americans an early lead in the backstroke — nearly 1 1/2 seconds ahead of Sophie Edington — but the Australians surged to the lead with breaststroke world record holder Leisel Jones. Jess Schipper (butterfly) and Libby Lenton (free) finished off the dominating win.

''We have such an awesome team this year,'' Schipper said. ''I'm just glad to be part of it.''

The U.S. team, which also included Jessica Hardy, Rachel Komisarz and Amanda Weir, grabbed the silver in 3:59.92.

With one day left in the championships, the Americans were on top of the swimming standings with 13 golds and 27 medals overall. Australia had 10 golds and 17 medals in all.

It was another big night for the Africans, an emerging force in Montreal.

South Africa's Roland Schoeman won the 50 free for his second gold of the week, even though he wasn't feeling well, and Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry completed a sweep of the 100-200 backstroke.

''I think being sick takes off the pressure. You don't know what to expect,'' Schoeman said. ''Last night, I felt like death.''

He felt on top of the world after swimming the length of the pool in 21.69 — just five-hundredths off Alexander Popov's world record and beating Popov's meet record from 2003.

''I went to bed last night and said some prayers: 'Big guy, take care of me tomorrow,''' Schoeman said. ''I did feel a little bit better. Not a huge amount, but enough to go 21.6. I kind of like being sick.''

He stared defiantly at the scoreboard and held up one finger. Popov's world record was safe for another day, but Schoeman is closing fast.

''I'm not upset about the world record,'' he said. ''That will come.''

Coventry won the 200 back in 2:08.52 seconds, adding to her victory in the 100 and a silver-medal showing in the 200 individual medley. Margaret Hoelzer of the United States was second.

''I'm just excited I'm at a point where I'm not freaking out about being in a world championship,'' Coventry said. ''Being a world champion, it gives me confidence and helps me swim my best.''

Australia's other gold medalist was Danni Miatke in the 50 butterfly, a non-Olympic event.

''People ask you when you say that you're a swimmer, 'Are you any good?''' Miatke said. ''Now I'll be able to tell them, 'Yes, I'm a world champion.'''

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