Phelps breaks 400 IM mark

Associated Press

Holding off one of his best friends, Michael Phelps started his second attempt to break Mark Spitz's Olympic record with another epic swim.

Phelps, of Rodgers Forge, set a world record in his first event of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, touching just ahead of Ryan Lochte to win the 400-meter individual medley in 4 minutes, 5.25 seconds last night.

Phelps beat his own mark of 4:06.22, set at last year's world championships in Australia when he turned in one of the greatest performances in swimming history with seven gold medals.

After saying he had no fear of Phelps, Lochte proved it by also going under the previous record. But his time of 4:06.08 was good enough for only second with Phelps in the next lane over.

"He looked great, and what an epic swim," said Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman.

"One of the best swims I've ever seen."

Robert Margalis finished third, more than seven seconds behind the top two.

"That's absolutely incredible," Margalis said. "I'm a swimming fan as much as I am a swimmer. I'm happy for those guys.

It was a fun thing to be a part of."

Phelps won six gold medals and two bronzes at the Athens Olympics, just missing Spitz's record of seven wins at the 1972 Munich Games. Phelps - who turns 23 today - is determined to knock off the mark in Beijing.

Earlier, Lochte out-swam Phelps, even if it was only the preliminaries of the 400-meter individual medley.

Lochte was the fastest qualifier in 4 minutes, 13.38 seconds - fourth best in the world this year.

"Not bad," he said. "I felt really good and smooth the whole way. It was a good first swim of the meet."

Swimming in the last heat, Phelps touched in 4:13.43 to be second quickest.

"I'm not really too happy," he said. "That was slower than I went in worlds in the morning. Hopefully I'll be faster tonight."

Katie Hoff took the lead on the breaststroke leg of the women's 400 IM and cruised to the fastest time of 4:34.59, bettering her trials record from four years ago.

Elizabeth Beisel, a 15-year-old from Saunderstown, R.I., flirted with the world record one heat earlier before qualifying second in 4:35.76. Two-time Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno, silver medalist at the Athens Games, finished 10th - 9.22 seconds off her best time - and didn't advance to the eight-woman evening final.

Lochte is entered in a whopping 11 events and Phelps in nine, but the six-time Olympic gold medalist has already dropped the 400 freestyle.

Also advancing to the eight-man evening final in the temporary pool at the Qwest Center was Alex Vanderkaay, one of four brothers from the same family competing at the trials.

There are only two Olympic berths available in each event.

Lochte is competing in the eight-day trials just more than a month after spraining his left ankle while chasing his Doberman named Carter, in honor of Lochte's favorite rapper, Lil' Wayne. He felt some twinges during the breaststroke portion of the four-stroke event.

"The hardest part was the dive," Lochte said. "As soon as I dived in, it was like, 'Ugh.'"

Peter Vanderkaay, Alex's older brother and the American record holder, was the leading qualifier in the 400 freestyle with a time of 3:48.06. Two-time Olympian Erik Vendt was second in 3:48.25.

Vendt is named in a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by TYR Sport against Speedo, USA Swimming and U.S. national team coach Mark Schubert involving the companies' rival swimsuits. Vendt has a TYR contract, but he's wearing Speedo's LZR Racer suit at the trials.

"It's hard not to think about it. The first week after it happened was a real emotional roller coaster," he said. "Swimming is keeping me sane."

Larsen Jensen, fourth at the 2004 Olympics, was third.

"I think you'll see four people under 3:45 tonight," he said.

Klete Keller, seeking his third Olympic berth, qualified fifth for the evening final. He's looking to rebound from a poor individual showing at last year's world championships, where he failed to get out of the prelims in two events.

"I've been through a lot since then, but I'm at my best right now," he said. "I was expecting everyone to go a lot faster. I guess everyone is saving up for tonight."

NCAA 100 butterfly champion Christine Magnuson emerged from a strong field with the fastest prelim swim, touching in 57.84 seconds. The Tennessee swimmer has just one minor international meet to her credit.

The 100 fly is one of nine events that had more than 100 swimmers entered, with 148 women competing. Six of the women's events drew at least 100 swimmers.

Elaine Breeden, a Stanford swimmer whose cousin is TV journalist Diane Sawyer, was second fastest in 58.03. Among the 16 advancing to the evening semifinals were three 2004 Olympians - Rachel Komisarz, Dana Vollmer and Margaret Hoelzer - along with Mary Descenza and Whitney Myers.

Myers became the first confirmed Nike defector when she showed up on deck in Speedo's full-length LZR Racer suit. She broke her personal best in the 100 fly by eight-tenths of a second and qualified eighth-fastest.

"I really respect Nike as a company to allow their swimmers to wear whatever suits they feel most comfortable in and most confident in," Myers said. "As we all know, the Speedo has produced some amazing results over the last six months. Nike realized that their suit is not quite up to par, so they're choosing to allow their athletes to wear a different suit."

Nike also sponsors top Olympic hopefuls such as gold medalists Brendan Hansen, Aaron Peirsol and Sandeno, as well as sprinters Jason Lezak and Cullen Jones. Hansen joined Myers in wearing the Speedo suit for the 100 breaststroke.

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