Michael Phelps Loses Again at Charlotte

May 18th, 2009 by admin


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte UltraSwim showcased Michael Phelps’ vulnerability one more time Sunday night.

France’s Fred Bousquet beat Phelps in the 100-meter freestyle final in the last event of the highest-profile UltraSwim ever. Charlotte’s Ricky Berens finished third. Tyler McGill was fourth and Cullen Jones was fifth.

Phelps ended up winning two of the five events he entered at the UltraSwim in his first real competition since the 2008 Beijing Olympics last August, when he won a staggering eight gold medals in eight attempts.

Phelps finished second in two UltraSwim events — losing to Bousquet Sunday and to Aaron Peirsol in the 100 backstroke Saturday_and he dropped out of the final of the 50-meter freestyle. So his final tally here was two firsts, two seconds and one “incomplete.”

“For my first meet back, I have no complaints,” Phelps said.

Actually, he did. Phelps was angry with himself for the way he swam in the 100-meter final before a third straight sellout crowd at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. Phelps finished in 49.04 seconds, well behind Bousquet’s 48.22.

“My turn (at the 50-meter wall) and my finish were awful,” Phelps said. “I took an extra stroke going into the wall and I needed an extra stroke going into the finish…. Two stupid mistakes.”

Bousquet, who set the world record in the 50 freestyle a month ago, has experienced a career renaissance at age 28. He also won the 50 freestyle earlier in this meet.

“Whenever you race that guy,” Bousquet said, speaking of Phelps, “you can’t rely on your back-half speed. I knew I had to use my strength and go out as fast as I could.”

Bousquet led by a full second at the halfway mark and didn’t lose much of his lead in the final half.

Phelps alternated his new, straighter-armed stroke with his old one during the race, flip-flopping between the two several times while he tried to track down Bousquet. It didn’t work. But he was still smiling after the race and said the meet in Charlotte had been a pleasure.

“It was awesome,” Phelps said of the UltraSwim. “To have the attention we had — both media-based and fan-based — you couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Jones, also using a new straight-armed stroke, didn’t fare well in the final. His time dropped slightly from the Sunday morning preliminaries.

“I just wasn’t able to hold it tonight,” Jones said.

Berens couldn’t participate for much of the UltraSwim because it coincided with some of his final exams at the University of Texas. Berens did beat Bousquet in a Sunday morning heat, but Bousquet obviously saved some of his strength for the evening.

Berens has competed in the UltraSwim for years. “What, it’s been 25 years of UltraSwims now?” he said. “I think this one may have been bigger than the first 24 combined. This was huge.”

There is even a dream nurtured by some in the Charlotte swimming community that the city could one day host the U.S. Olympic Trials — although likely no earlier than 2016.

At the 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha, a huge temporary pool was set up in an indoor arena similar to Time Warner Cable Arena. That would likely need to be the plan here as well, because the county’s aquatic center doesn’t have nearly enough seating capacity for the thousands that attend the swimming trials.

“I think we could host the Olympic Trials here, I really do,” said David Marsh, the head coach at Mecklenburg Aquatic Club. “We’ve shown USA Swimming that we can do really big events here now and do them well.”

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