Phelps, U.S. relay team steal spotlight at record-setting worlds
Sacre bleu. The U.S. relay team fricasseed and flambéed the French again. On a night when six world records fell in seven events at the FINA world championships in Rome, the race that didn't produce one nevertheless held a headline. This was France's chance to undo the choke of Beijing, when
Instead, a completely revamped U.S. quartet of Phelps,
Phelps led off for the U.S. team and didn't swim his best leg, pulling into third in 47.78 seconds. "The best thing about tonight's race," said U.S. head coach
That included Lochte, who often follows Phelps in 200-meter legs of the 800-meter relay, a distance that better suits him. Lochte went head-to-head against Bernard, a surprising choice to swim the second leg. "I looked to my left and saw Bernard and he's like seven feet tall," Lochte said in exaggeration. "I was like, how am I going to swim against this guy?" Instead, Lochte aced the challenge, speeding by in 47.03 seconds and keeping the U.S. team in the hunt, half a stroke behind the French. After Grevers put together a 47.61, it left Adrian, the new kid on the swim blocks to get off them quickly. "I felt like a child among men," Adrian said afterwards. "They threw me on the last leg and I had a lot of pressure on me."
Bowman made the call on that, sensing that Adrian, 20, is the team's future, especially with Lezak, 33, in Israel honoring his Jewish heritage at the Maccabiah Games. "He has to get used to it some point," Bowman said of the anchor assignment. "He's very tough and strong under pressure. He keeps his wits about him. If he's going to be in that position, this is a good place for him to start."
Adrian swam a 46.79 anchor, a full .63 seconds faster than Bousquet over the last 100 meters. He punched the water in his excitement, spraying the Frenchman, who may not have noticed. Earlier in the month, Bousquet and Bernard criticized Phelps for not swimming the open 100 meters in Rome, because, they suggested, he might have been afraid to face them. It was the same sort of talk we heard from the French before their ill-fated relay effort in Beijing, and talk has a way of biting them on the derriere.
The night of records was a stunner. It was as though the man who measured the fences at the new Yankee Stadium took out his poorly calibrated ruler for the lanes at Foro Italico. In fact, much had to do with the fast suits that are soon to be outlawed for good. They are on their last legs here in Rome. In all, one relay record fell to the Dutch women in the 4x100-meter relay (3:31.72). In that race, the leadoff swimmer on the German relay,
How fast are the times likely to be the rest of the week here in Rome? Consider that in Sunday's evening session, swimmers set four world records in the first four events . . . and three of those events were only semifinals. First Sweden's
Then just 15 minutes later, Germany's
Expect many more of those moments before the week is done.