Michael Phelps held off a late charge by his rivals to win the 400-metre freestyle Saturday at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix, though he later admitted to having struggled in an event in which he rarely competes.
AFP - Michael Phelps clawed out a victory in the 400 meter freestyle at the Santa Clara Invitational on Saturday, but the 14-time Olympic gold medallist said it was far from a textbook swim.
In an event in which he rarely competes, Phelps got out to a big early lead, then struggled at the end to hold off Canadian Ryan Cochrane.
Phelps, who was more than two seconds faster than Cochrane at the halfway stage and still led by a body length at 300 meters, won in 3:48.05, with Cochran second in 3:48.40.
"I felt awesome the first 250 (meters). The last 150 I was second-guessing why I ever asked to swim that event here," said Phelps, the winner of eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games who has said he wants to concentrate more on sprint races this year but nonetheless wanted the challenge of a 400 in Santa Clara.
It was a far cry from his 200m butterfly victory on Friday, when he won by more than five seconds.
"That's how not to swim the 400 free. I went out after it, then tried to hold on as much as I could," said Phelps, who is competing in his second meeting since a three-month ban by USA swimming in the wake of publication of a photo of him holding a marijuana pipe.
Phelps' coach Bob Bowman said racing a longer event such as the 400 helped to remind his student that not all races can be easy wins, and Phelps admitted it was a "wakeup call."
"I don't think I've ever hurt that bad after a race," Phelps said.
Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry vanquished an old rival and held off a new challenger to win the women's 400 medley, then followed up with a victory in the 100m backstroke.
Coventry, who won a gold and three silver medals at last year's Beijing Olympics, set a meet record of 4 minutes, 32.15 seconds to win the 400m individual medley by nearly four seconds over Dagny Knutson, who is considered among the best of the next generation of US swimmers.
Knutson's time was a personal best of 4:36.02, more than a second faster than fellow American Elizabeth Beisel.
Australia's Stephanie Rice, who set the world record in winning gold over Coventry in the event at the Beijing Games was fourth in 4:38.08.
Rice, who won three golds in Beijing, recently completed a three-week high-altitude training program and said before the meeting that she was still tired and not yet in top form.
Coventry's convincing victory in the medley and her backstroke victory, showed that she again will be one of the top medal contenders at this summer's world championships in Rome.
The Santa Clara grand prix meeting, which concludes Sunday, is her last big competition before next month's world event.
"This is definitely a good self-confidence booster. It felt good," Coventry said. "Now we have another five weeks of hard training."
Leisel Jones, an Australian who is a six-time Olympic medalist, pulled away at the end to win the women's 100 breaststroke in 1:07.11. Jones, who broke her own meet record while winning the 200 breaststroke on Friday night, is skipping the world championships this summer to focus on her beauty school studies back home in Australia.
In other races, Japan's Masayuki Kishida won the men's 100 butterfly and American Ryan Lochte, the Olympic gold medallist and world record-holder, won the 200m backstroke. American Nathan Adrian won the 50 free.
American Dana Vollmer won her third individual gold medal of the meet in the 200 freestyle. She won the 100 freestyle and the 100 butterfly on Friday.
Date created : 2009-06-14