On the opening night of the three-day Winter National Championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Phelps won the 200 IM.
FEDERAL WAY — As he prepares for his fourth and final Olympic Games, Michael Phelps swam a satisfactory race Thursday night in the pool where he posted one of his earliest career milestones.
On the opening night of the three-day Winter National Championships at the King County Aquatic Center, Phelps won the 200-meter individual medley in 1 minute 57.61 seconds, 1.16 seconds ahead of second-place Chase Kalisz.
Phelps has won the gold medal in the 200 IM in the past three Olympics, part of his 18 career Olympic gold medals. His time Thursday was quicker than a Pro Swim Series race in Minneapolis (1:59.3) on Nov. 13, but slower than the 1:54.75 he swam in August, the world’s fastest 2015 time in the event.
“One fifty-seven is about where I want to be,” Phelps said. “It’s faster than I was at the end of the year last year going into nationals, so I think we’re on the right track.
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“I think the biggest thing I’ve had a problem with over the last year has been my freestyle, so I think it actually felt decent tonight,” Phelps said of his final leg. “I didn’t feel like I was standing still and dying.”
Phelps, who turned 30 in June, recalled swimming in his first national meet at the KCAC as a 15-year-old. In 2000 it was the place where he broke two minutes in the 200 butterfly for the first time while finishing third. “I got whupped,” Phelps said with a smile. “I was a little boy back then.
“Six months after that I made my first Olympic team,” he recalled. “It was kind of here where I started, really. After I swam 1:59 here, that’s when everything kind of took off. I’ve enjoyed this pool.”
Phelps and coach Bob Bowman indulged in a South King County flashback by revisiting the Mitzel’s restaurant that Phelps made his personal dining hall in 2000.
“We were here four or five days (in 2000), and I went every single lunch and dinner there, every day,” Phelps said. “Bob and I pretty much had the same meal every day. It was meatloaf, green beans, carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy and a bowl of clam chowder. I had the same thing yesterday. It’s just the same, just as good.”
• Bremerton native and three-time Olympic gold medal winner Nathan Adrian won the men’s 50 free in 21.87 despite arriving at the pool too late to practice his start.
“I got stuck in traffic, so I couldn’t actually get off the block before the race,” Adrian said. “It’s always kind of hard jumping in and going not cold turkey, but that was the first start of the night off that block. That was stupid of me.”
• In Thursday’s four other finals, Allison Schmitt, 2012 gold medalist in the 200 free, won the women’s 400 free (4:06.88) and Conor Dwyer took the men’s 400 free (3:48.11). Simone Manual, 19, won the women’s 50 free in 24.83, edging Abbey Weitzel (24.86). Natalie Coughlin, owner of 12 Olympic medals (three gold) placed fifth (25.27). Maya DiRado won the women’s 200 IM (2:11.1).
• On Friday and Saturday, prelims begin at 9 a.m. and finals start at 6 p.m. Phelps is slated to swim in the 100 butterfly Friday and 200 fly on Saturday. Adrian will race in the 100 free on Saturday. Missy Franklin, the four-time 2012 gold medalist and world-record holder in the 200 back, did not swim Thursday but will compete Friday (100 back) and Saturday (200 back).