COLUMBIA — All eyes were on Michael Phelps as he competed in his first event, the 200-meter butterfly, at the Missouri Grand Prix Friday. But Phelps’ easy win was overshadowed by three pool record-breaking swims and a rare swim-off.
In the meet’s second event, the 100-meter men’s freestyle preliminaries, Cesar Cielo, swimming unattached, broke the pool and Missouri Grand Prix record by nearly half a second. His record would last only two races, though, before Matt Grevers of Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics lowered the mark by another half-second, with a time of 48.59.
Katie Hoff bettered her own pool and meet record in the 400-meter free by five seconds, with a time of 4:04.44. And the women’s 200-meter backstroke also saw a record fall, with Kirsty Coventry of Longhorn Aquatics destroying the previous pool and meet record by nearly seven seconds.
On the women’s side of the 100-meter free, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and national team member Rachel Komisarz had identical times and were forced to compete in a swim-off for the eighth spot in the event, the last in the top finals heat. Komisarz narrowly secured the spot by beating Vanderpool-Wallace by .24 seconds.
Phelps, after being challenged early on in the 200-meter fly by Dan Madwed, cruised to an easy win, finishing in 1:55.26. That time is over three seconds off his current world record time and about a second-and-a-half off his world record-breaking swim in last year’s Missouri Grand Prix.
“I wanted to treat this like a preliminary session,” Phelps said. “I wanted to swim controlled and get any mistakes I’ll make out of the way.”
Phelps said he “botched” a few of his turns and admitted that he likes swimming in long course pools more because he has to do fewer turns. Phelps, coming off mostly short course training, said he seems to be swimming well but that a lack of practice in the long course format may have contributed to his turn issues.
“My goal is to be faster than I was last year,” said Phelps, whose time Friday was significantly faster than his preliminaries time of 1:59.82 in the event at the 2007 Grand Prix. “I haven’t had the most successful or the most easygoing year this year.”
Phelps will compete in the 200-meter fly final Saturday morning and will compete in the 200 free and 400 IM preliminaries Saturday afternoon.
“The guy’s side is very competitive,” Phelps said. “It’s faster than last year. Everyone knows how important this year is, and that brings out the best in everyone.”