INDIANAPOLIS, July 8 — Michael Phelps muttered angrily as he got out of the water Wednesday night at the U.S. swimming championships. He spewed extremely unprintable things.
This was surprising.
He had just won his second of two finals, securing berths in the 200-meter freestyle and 200 butterfly at the world championships in Rome later this month.
He had officially overcome a tumultuous offseason that included six months of no training, a three-month ban for bad behavior and serious consideration of retirement. He had gone 2 for 2 on his first night back of serious, this-really-matters swimming, winning the 200 free in 1 minute 44.23 seconds and the 200 fly in 1:52.76.
Yet Phelps fumed and talked to himself.
“I’m not happy,” Phelps said later to reporters when asked about his obvious dismay. “That’s one of the things that’s really going to motivate me, these races today. ….. Some things happened today that are going to be helpful for me to swim faster.”
Phelps, 24, declined to elaborate on those “things.” He, perhaps coincidentally, also declined to elaborate on his feelings about the latest high-tech speedsuits that have caused so much controversy in the sport recently — and which happened to be worn by the two men who finished second to him Wednesday, and many others in both races.
In the 200 fly, Phelps beat Tyler Clary, 20, who sported one of the most popular and controversial new suits, a Jaked01. With his finish in 1:53.64, which makes him the fourth-fastest man ever in the event, he dropped nearly four seconds from the personal best he set in June and more than eight seconds from the personal best he set in May.
In the 200 free, David Walters, 21, also sported a Jaked01 and finished second in 1:44.95, 1.62 seconds faster than his previous best. Walters not only hung with Phelps, he topped Phelps’s pal Ryan Lochte, who finished third in 1:45.66, thereby keeping Lochte off of the world championship team in that event.
Walters, who won an Olympic gold swimming a preliminary leg of the 400 free relay last year, said he chose the “Ferrari red” Jaked01 suit because “objects that are red look faster than they actually are.”
“Everybody in that heat I look up to,” he said. “I’ll take the win, but I know any other day those guys would win.”
Clary, this year’s national champion in the 400-yard individual medley from the University of Michigan, prevented Michigan’s Dan Madwed, who came home in 1:56.13, from making the world team in the 200 fly. Madwed used to train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Phelps’s home club.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic with how that turned out,” Clary said.
Phelps, clearly, was not.
“After six months off, really being back in the water five months, I can’t be disappointed” with his times, Phelps said. “There are other things frustrating me. I’m just going to keep them inside.”
FINA, swimming’s world governing body, considered banning the Jaked01 and 136 other suits last month, but decided against it because of legal concerns, allowing 400 suits by more than two dozen manufacturers to be used this summer. Phelps has declined to discuss the issue this week, but his coach, Bob Bowman, has railed against the ruling and the newest suits.
Phelps’s two victories overshadowed five-time Olympic gold medal winner Aaron Peirsol’s world-record swim in the 100 backstroke. Peirsol regained the world record he lost just a week ago when Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer Faber took Peirsol’s former record while wearing a Jaked01.
Wednesday, Peirsol also sported one of the hot — and controversial — new suits, the Arena X-Glide. But he only wore the pants, not the full-body version, drawing cheers from the crowd here. He touched the wall in 51.94 seconds, topping Faber’s 52.38.
“When the world record was broken, it was a total surprise,” Peirsol, 25, said. “But my goal going into this meet was to break that anyway. That was a little extra motivation. The guy got to hold the record for a week, so he can be happy with that.”
Before Faber broke it, Peirsol had held the 100 world record since 2004.
“He was making a statement,” said Matt Grevers, 24, who finished second in 53.11. “The other guy’s trying to take his record and the first opportunity he got, he took it back. That says a lot about his dominance.”
Grevers beat out Nick Thoman, 23, who also trains at NBAC under Bowman. Thoman missed a world championship team berth by .01 of a second.
Phelps, who will also compete in the 100 fly and 100 free later this week, added that he also would have liked to have reached personal bests; his time in the 200 free was well short of his world record of 1:42.96, and the time in the 200 fly missed his world record in that event by .73 of a second.
“When I’m satisfied is when I’m doing a best time,” Phelps said. “That’s what makes me happy. I’m happy with where I am, all things considered, but deep down inside I’m happy doing a best time.”