Michael Phelps, it appears, has officially, and fully, bounced back from an unexpected Day 1 loss at the 2005 swimming world championships. Phelps won his first individual gold medal and second overall here with a dominant performance in the 200-meter freestyle Tuesday night at Jean-Drapeau Park.
Though the field lacked the two men -- Australian Ian Thorpe and Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband -- who topped Phelps at last year's Summer Games in Athens, Phelps didn't leave much room for questions about whether he was ready to compete.
Phelps touched the wall in 1 minute 45.20 seconds, nearly a second faster than Aussie Grant Hackett (1:46.14) and 0.12 of a second faster than the personal best he had set at last year's Olympics. South Africa's Ryk Neethling finished third in 1:46.63.
"It's my best time, so I'm pretty happy with it," Phelps, 20, said. "I think I slowed up a little going into the third wall [final turn] but I came home strong and was able to finish up well."
On Sunday, Phelps failed to qualify for the 400 freestyle final with an abysmal effort in that morning's heats. Though he led off a U.S. victory in the 400 freestyle relay that night, it was unclear how Phelps -- who won six gold medals and two bronzes at the Olympics -- would perform the rest of the week.
Phelps, a Baltimore native who trains in Ann Arbor, Mich., figures he survived a rough day, learned from it and has moved on. "I was able to bounce back from [Sunday]," he said. "I've never been in that position. . . . I think it was a big learning experience for me.
"It feels good to get it done, but the two that beat me were still not here. When I'm able to stand up against Thorpe and Van den Hoogenband, hopefully it will be a better challenge." . . .
Towson's Katie Hoff barely failed to qualify for Wednesday's 200 freestyle final, the day after winning a gold medal in the 200 individual medley. Hoff finished 0.01 second out of a qualification spot.
Raab Falls Short
Rockville's Michael Raab might have taken a step toward a possible career with his band, Crash Everest, when he fell just short of advancing to the semifinals of the 200 butterfly. Raab's margin of defeat in Tuesday morning's heats was excruciating; he missed a qualifying slot by .18 of a second, posting the 17th-best time of the morning. The top 16 advanced.
"I'm happy with the effort, but I'm a little disappointed with the result," he said.
Raab, a Walter Johnson High graduate who hopes to finish his economics degree at Virginia this fall, had said he would use this meet to help decide whether to devote himself to swimming full time or pursuing other interests -- such as playing guitar in the band. He said after the race that he would compete at two more meets this summer before making any long-term plans.
"I don't have to make any drastic decisions yet," Raab, 22, said. But "honestly, a mediocre performance like that doesn't help the swimming side of things." . . .
Leisel Jones of Australia ended the fairy tale of Long Beach's Jessica Hardy, 18, who finished second (1:06.62) in the 100 breaststroke final to Jones (1:06.25) a day after breaking Jones's world record in the event. American Tara Kirk claimed the bronze. . . .
Aaron Peirsol, the reigning Olympic champion, world champion and world record holder, won the 100 backstroke (53.62) while Natalie Coughlin, the world record holder in the women's 100 back, claimed the bronze medal in a time of 1:00.88.