MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Michael Phelps helped his American team trounce a group of European all-stars in the Duel in the Pool, anchoring a relay to one of the eight world records the U.S. set over the two-day meet that ended Saturday.
The U.S. team won 185-78 in the last major meet before the Jan. 1 ban on high-tech polyurethane suits.
Phelps, who already has reverted to wearing an old-style textile suit, anchored the U.S. victory in the 400-meter freestyle relay in a world-record time of three minutes, 3.3 seconds, but didn’t fare well in the individual races.
In the 200 butterfly, the 14-time Olympic champion lost by a body length to Michael Rock of Britain, who was wearing a high-tech suit. And in the 200 freestyle, Phelps slumped to third. His only individual victory was Friday in the 100 butterfly.
"I’m disappointed a little bit because I would like to have swum a little faster, but this is more of a team event than anything else," Phelps said. "I’m not in great shape and I know what I have to do to improve. I’d rather lose a race now than when it really counts.
"The biggest things I’m looking forward to is the world championships next summer and the Olympics after that. If I can be prepared for those races I will be absolutely fine. These are all baby steps towards the big picture."
Soothing Phelps’ concerns is the knowledge that everyone will be swimming in the old suits in less than two weeks.
"It will be more of a sport and not just putting on a suit," he said at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.
Even Rock acknowledged that his shiny suit may have helped him beat Phelps by more than a second.
"Possibly, if you look at it that way," said Rock, who finished seventh in the same 200 butterfly event at the world championships earlier this year. "But I just see it as a great training swim, a midseason swim. It’s not every day you beat Michael Phelps. I just cling on to that."
Regardless of the suits, this duel against the best swimmers from Britain, Italy and Germany was never a contest.
As the Americans set world records from the first race on Friday — the women’s 400-meter medley — to Saturday’s finale featuring Phelps in the 400 freestyle, victory was beyond doubt.
Two world records were set by American women Saturday. Julia Smit, who broke the 400 individual medley world mark on Friday, clocked 2:04.6 to win the 200 version. Rebecca Soni, who took down the 200 breaststroke record Friday, repeated the feat in the 100 by timing 1:02.7.
The U.S. lead was insurmountable with eight races to go thanks to Mike Alexandrov’s victory coupled with Kevin Swander’s third-place finish in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke.
But there were a couple of comforting statistics for the European all-stars as they featured in the Duel in the Pool for the first time.
While the U.S. won 11 races to three on Friday, the margin was reduced to 10-6 on Saturday. And in the previous three Duel events, the U.S. beat Australia each time — the first time by 112 points in 2003.