For the second night in a row, Maryland swimming star and top U.S. Olympic hopeful Michael Phelps suffered a rare defeat at the hands of his Texas backstroke nemesis, Aaron Peirsol.
Phelps lost to Peirsol in the final of the 100-meter backstroke on Sunday, finishing second with a time of 55.49 seconds to Peirsol's 54.91 on the final evening of the four-day, International Invitational swim meet.
Phelps had lost to Peirsol on Saturday night in the 200-meter backstroke, an event in which Peirsol holds the world record of 1 minute 55.15 seconds.
The 100-meter backstroke, however, was Phelps's third race in an hour.
He had started the chilly, breezy evening by taking the final of the 100-meter freestyle, catching 2000 American Olympian Jason Lezak of California in the final 10 meters and finishing in 49.26 seconds. Lezak was timed in 49.53 seconds.
Thirty minutes later, Phelps easily won the final of the 200-meter individual medley in 2:00.41. Phelps holds the world record of 1:55.94 in the event, as well as the world record of 4:09.09 in the 400-meter individual medley.
The meet was for many swimmers the final big event before the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in July.
Phelps, 18, who lives in North Baltimore, raced in the three events in quick order as a kind of a test. At this summer's Olympics in Athens he is aiming to match Mark Spitz's 1972 record haul of seven gold medals, a feat that will involve swimming multiple events, often in a short period of time.
Peirsol, 20, a sophomore at the University of Texas, though playing down meet results, had said earlier that he still liked to win his events, and "that entails beating everybody."
But he said his real goal had been to swim well. "It's more of just a fine-tuning thing," he said of the meet. Winning or losing "doesn't really mean that much at a time like this. Everyone's here to see what everyone else is doing."
Men's Single Sculls
Conal Groom pulled ahead of Adam Holland with two strokes left to win the men's single sculls finals at the non-qualified Olympic small boat trials on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J.
Groom advanced to the Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, on June 13-16.
Groom lost to Holland by 0.25 second Friday and forced a third race after winning by 0.24 second Saturday. On Sunday, his time was 7:09.65 while Holland finished in 7:20.01.
Groom went ahead near the finish line, and Holland collapsed in his boat as Groom passed him.
Groom, who lives and trains in Seattle, had hoped to open a lead by the 500-meter mark and withstand the kind of late charge Holland used to win Friday's race.
"Coming through the [final] 500, I just started putting out everything I had, which I already knew wasn't much," said Groom, who finished 11th in the lightweight double sculls in the 2000 Olympics.
Groom estimates he was six inches ahead when Holland fell back in his boat.
"I think we went a little too fast for the conditions, trying to break each other early in the race," Groom said. "It was just complete exhaustion."
Holland, a 1996 Olympic qualifier in men's pair, admitted he had nothing left.
"Your vision just tunnels into nothing," he said. "You're expecting it to be there, and it wasn't."
Top-rated show jumper Beezie Madden finished first at the U.S. trials with two penalty-free performances on Authentic in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Madden also won the $175,000 Cargill Grand Prix of the U.S., which ran concurrently with the final two rounds of the trials.
Peter Wylde, of Massachusetts, was second in trials. He had 12 penalties with Fein Cera, the mare he rode when he won an individual bronze medal at the 2002 World Equestrian Games.
McLain Ward, of Bedford, N.Y., finished third on Sapphire with 15 penalties, while Alison Firestone, of Upperville, was fourth on Casanova with 21.
Already included on the short list is Chris Kappler of Flemington, N.J., who was excused from the trials by the selectors last month because of his brilliant record with Royal Kaliber.
The top five riders will go to Europe next month to start preparation for the Athens Games.