INDIANAPOLIS - On Saturday, Michael Phelps had to sit out a day of competition for the first time in memory.
Yesterday, he worked overtime.
In the midst of a heavy training schedule and recovering from a possible case of food poisoning, Phelps put on an impressive show at the Counsilman Classic last night, as he crammed three solid swims into 37 minutes at the IU Natatorium.
"I've never been under that kind of stress before," Phelps said. "That's relaxing and reassuring, knowing we're not that far off from where we want to be."
Phelps won the 200-meter backstroke in 1 minute, 57.60 seconds, two seconds off his best but a similar margin in front of the runner-up. The next men's final was the 100 freestyle, where Phelps won in 49.45, only 0.4 of a second off his personal best. Seventh at the 50 wall, he surged and overcame Ryk Neethling, who had ended his 37-event win streak Friday.
"I didn't feel great [Friday], but I don't like to lose," said Phelps, who wore the biggest smile he's had after a victory this year. "Running guys down in the last 50 is something to be happy about."
The rare loss had come in the 200 freestyle. Fourteen minutes after getting revenge, Phelps swam a solo exhibition in the 200 free, and his 1:48.30 was nearly a half-second better than his losing effort from 48 hours earlier.
"Whooh, big dog!" exclaimed Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. "Physically, that's as tough as it gets, and you can't measure what he gains from this mentally."
Phelps had scratched from three events on Friday and Saturday at this USA Swimming Grand Prix meet, but last night's test wasn't makeup work. That load was piled on to simulate the demands the 18-year-old may seek at the U.S. Olympic trials in July, and then the games in August.
In choosing his Olympic program, Phelps faces a schedule that, in a 70-minute stretch one night, includes finals of the 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley, and semifinals of the 100 butterfly. He's less than three-tenths of a second from holding the world records in all three.
Physiologists from USA Swimming monitored Phelps' lactate levels every five minutes. Lactate is to blood what lactic acid is to muscles. The higher the measurement, the greater the oxygen debt. After the 200 back, he had a reading of below 6 millimoles per liter of blood, standard for him but a level few swimmers in the world can match. After the 200 free, it was over 14, the highest Phelps has ever measured.
Phelps will spend the next three nights in the Phoenix area, mixing a photo shoot into some training at Arizona State. He has six weeks until his next meet, the Santa Clara International, and that timeframe will include the last heavy training of his Olympic preparation.
Courtney Kalisz, a 13-year-old from Fallston who swims for the NBAC's Harford satellite team, finished second in the women's 200 backstroke in 2:17.25, under the Olympic trials cut. She had already qualified for the trials in the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley.
With Phelps sidelined for half of the meet, teammate Kevin Clements finished second in the men's point standings.