December 20, 2009
MANCHESTER, England —
The U.S. team won, 185-78, in the last major meet before the Jan. 1 ban on high-tech polyurethane suits.
Phelps, who lives in Fells Point, already has reverted to an old-style textile suit and did not fare well in the individual events dominated by swimmers in the soon-to-be banned suits.
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 was third.
"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 toward 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.
Regardless of the suits, this short-course 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. The U.S. team won 11 of 14 races on Friday and took an insurmountable lead with eight races left Saturday.
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