Swimming: Phelps helps Americans dominate at Duel in Pool
By ROB HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, England — Michael Phelps won the 100-meter butterfly and helped the U.S. medley relay team break the world record, one of five the Americans set on Friday in taking a commanding lead at the Duel in the Pool.
The Americans won 11 of the 14 events to lead the European team 89-33 at the halfway point of the short-course contest at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.
“We wanted to come here and try to keep the ball rolling and it’s definitely a good start,” Phelps said. “Everything’s a stepping stone to 2012.”
While most of his competitors continued to swim in the high-tech suits that will be banned on Jan. 1, Phelps is sacrificing short-term gain by competing in the old-style, textile knee-length outfits during his first competitive appearance in England.
The 14-time Olympic champion hopes that will give him an edge over competitors in the new year, although it saw him fail to win a single race at two World Cup short-course meets in Europe last month.
“I’m definitely happier about how things went here, having the opportunity to swim short-course meters again since the World Cup,” Phelps said. “I was faster here than I was there. It just shows things are moving in the right direction. Ever since the World Cups I’ve been wearing the Jammer and that’s probably what I’m going to wear for the rest of my career with the rule changes.
“To come back to the Jammer means putting more time and energy into having to work harder and having to make sure I’m in better shape.”
Phelps swam the third leg for the 4x100 medley relay team that finished in 3 minutes, 20.71 seconds to break the mark of 3:23.33 Canada set in August. Nick Thomas’ backstroke leg set an individual world record of 48.94.
Despite the slower suit, Phelps touched ahead of Benjamin Starke of Germany to win the 100 butterfly, but he had to settle for third in the 100 freestyle. Teammate Nathan Adrian won the race, followed by Italy’s Marco Orsi. Both were wearing the high-tech polyurethane suits.
The competition started with the U.S. women’s team winning the medley relay in a world record of 3:47.97, with Jessica Hardy swimming the second leg as they bettered the mark of 3:49.45 set by Canada in August.
Unlike Phelps, Hardy might not be returning to England for the Olympics, with The Court of Arbitration for Sport set to determine her eligibility to compete on March 12.
Hardy served a one-year ban after testing positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol before the Beijing Games. In May, the American Arbitration Association found the failed test was caused by a contaminated nutritional supplement and requested that Hardy not lose her Olympic eligibility.
American women set two other world records. Julia Smit triumphed in the 400 individual medley in 4:21.04, surpassing the 4:22.88 Kathryn Meaklim of South Africa clocked last month.
Olympic champion Rebecca Soni clocked 2:14.57 in the 200 breaststroke to better the 2:15.42 Leisel Jones of Australia swam in November.
The only European victories were delivered by Britons: Fran Halsall in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly, and Lizzie Simmonds in the 200 backstroke.