SAN ANTONIO: Michael Phelps made it three national titles in three world leading times in three days on Sunday (Monday in Manila) with a sizzling 200m individual medley triumph at the US swimming championships.
The 18-time Olympic gold medalist electrified the crowd by hitting the 150-meter mark under world record pace en route to a dominant victory in 1min 54.75sec.
“I’m pumped,” Phelps said. “Being able to do that right now, I’m very, very pleased and it’s something great to build off of.”
Although he faded on the final freestyle leg to finish outside the world record of 1:54.00 set by US team-mate Ryan Lochte in 2011, he was more than a second faster than the 1:55.81 Lochte produced to win the world title in Kazan, Russia, this week.
Phelps lost his world championships berth as part of the sanctions for his drunk-driving arrest last September.
With the US nationals running opposite the worlds serving basically as a consolation meet, Phelps has made sure he’s on the radar of the globe’s elite — posting times that would have been good enough to win in Kazan in the 100m and 200m butterfly as well as the medley.
He admitted it was one of his aims going into the nationals, although he said he wasn’t sure things would pan out that way.
“Obviously, I’d like to make a statement like that,” Phelps said. “But sometimes that doesn’t happen.”
Phelps’s comeback from a near two-year retirement was disrupted last year when his second drunk-driving arrest brought a six-month ban from competition.
He had trained hard through three prior meetings this season, producing only sluggish race times.
But he said he trusted longtime coach Bob Bowman would have him ready upon arrival in San Antonio.
“I had faith in what Bob was doing,” said Phelps, who left runner-up Will Licon trailing home 3.6 seconds adrift.
“I had faith that when the time came I’d be able to swim fast.”