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Phelps Refocuses On 200 Medley, Quest For Sixth Medal

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 18, 2004; 9:23 AM

ATHENS, Aug. 18 -- On the day after one of the most exhilarating performances a U.S. swim team has ever experienced at the Olympics, Michael Phelps got back in the pool this morning, trying to concentrate on grabbing his sixth medal of these Games.

Phelps, the 19-year-old from Baltimore County who helped the U.S. men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay team to a stirring gold Tuesday night, posted the second-fastest time in the preliminaries of the 200-meter individual medley this morning. Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, swimming in a different heat than Phelps, was fastest in 1 minute, 59.50 seconds, just ahead of Phelps's 2:00.01.

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Phelps holds the world record in the event -- 1:55.94 -- and will swim in the semifinals tonight and, barring an impossible-to-imagine upset, the final on Thursday evening.

Phelps, who does not have a final on his slate today, said he had trouble getting to sleep following the relay victory.

"There's a lot of emotion around from last night," Phelps said. "I'm a little tired, but I'll get a nap and I'll be better tonight."

The women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay preliminaries were also held this morning, and the American team of Lindsay Benko, Rhi Jeffrey, Carly Piper and Rachel Komisarz posted the fastest time. Women's coach Mark Schubert must now decide on a lineup for tonight's final, one that will almost certainly include Natalie Coughlin, gold medalist in the 100 backstroke, and Dana Vollmer, the Americans' fastest swimmer in the 200 free.

Schubert declined to reveal his lineup after the morning preliminaries. Whoever swims in the event, though, will draw inspiration from the men's performance Tuesday night.

"If there's not a carry-over from last night's relay," Schubert said, "there'll never be a carry-over."

In other preliminaries involving Americans, Kara Lynn Joyce and Coughlin both advanced to the semifinals of the 100 free; Aaron Peirsol, the gold medalist in the 100 back, was the fastest in the heats of the 200 back; Amanda Beard, silver medalist in the 200 IM, was third-fastest in the 200 breaststroke, with Caroline Bruce eighth.

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