Phelps sets Olympic record in qualifying heat
Source: DETROIT NEWS By John Niyo
BEIJING — In what he hopes is a bit of foreshadowing, Michael Phelps began his quest for the most storied Olympic record in fine form Saturday.
He broke his own Olympic record.
Diving into the pool for the first time in competition at the dazzling new National Aquatics Center, Phelps lowered his Olympic mark in the men’s 400-meter individual medley. Phelps was under world-record pace for the first 150 meters of the race — a grueling, four-stroke event that Phelps has dominated since 2002. And his finishing time of 4:07.82 was nearly a half-second better than the 4:08.26 he clocked to win his first Olympic gold medal four years ago in Athens.
“Well, I’m happy to get the first-race jitters out,” said Phelps, bidding to break Mark Spitz’s record of seven Olympic gold medals set at the 1972 Munich Games. “The first race is probably the most important one, getting it out of your system. And I’m pretty satisfied with the time. I didn’t think I could be that fast in the prelims.”
“(Qualifying first) was something I really wanted to do, after watching those first three heats. I wanted to be in the middle of the pool tomorrow, and hopefully that’ll give me some advantage in seeing everybody.”
Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, qualified second in 4:09.26, followed by Italy’s Luca Marin (4:10.22) and Phelps’ American rival, Ryan Lochte, who swam an easy 4:10.33 to qualify fourth for Sunday morning’s first swimming final.
The event will be shown live at 10:03 p.m. ET during NBC’s prime-time coverage Saturday night.
Rochester’s Peter Vanderkaay advanced to Sunday morning’s finals in the 400 freestyle. Vanderkaay was out-touched at the wall by Australian star Grant Hackett , who owns the fastest time in the world this year in the event. Larsen Jensen led all qualifiers in 3:43.10, lowering the American record he set at last month’s Olympic trials, but Hackett still figures to be the man to beat.
“I think it’ll take faster than what we all went tonight, but we’ll see what happens,” said Vanderkaay, who qualified sixth overall in 3:44.22 as he and Hackett (3:44.03) took it easy in their preliminary heat. “I feel like I have a better swim in me, too.”
Joyce sets the course
Olympic silver medalist Kara Lynn Joyce (Ann Arbor) did her part to set up the U.S. women’s 400 freestyle relay for a shot at a medal Sunday. Joyce, a late addition to the U.S. team after Dara Torres decided to drop one of her two individual events, swam the leadoff relay leg Saturday as the Americans qualified third for Sunday morning’s final. China is the surprising top seed, ahead of Germany, the U.S. and a Dutch team that owns the world record in the event.
“We put ourselves in a good position,” said Joyce, who only made it halfway home to Athens, Ga., after a disappointing Olympic trials before turning around and joining the U.S. team at training camp last month. “I just wanted to come in here and do something to help the team.
“You know what? I’ve had a great year, and I can’t let one bad meet get me down. I know where I’m at now, I know where I’m supposed to be, and I just need to look forward.”
The U.S. women went 1-2 in qualifying in the women’s 400 IM on Saturday, with 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel posting the fastest prelim time ahead of world record-holder Katie Hoff .
In the men’s 100 breaststroke, world record-holder Brendan Hansen — coming off a hugely disappointing Olympic trials — swam only the 10th-fastest time (1:00.36) in Saturday’s prelims, but still advanced to Sunday’s semifinals. Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen set an Olympic record (59.41) in qualifying first in the event.