Phelps in the shade as US bags five world records
Saturday 19 December 2009
It was a duel, but only one side had a pistol. America took a commanding, almost embarrassing, lead last night over Europe's E-Stars in the first "Duel in the Pool" to be staged in Britain.
When the two-day event resumes here today, the score will read 89-33 in favour of the visitors and home hopes will be down to two: slim and none. And slim will surely drown.
Not that winning and losing is the main motivation this weekend for the organisers, British Swimming. It is all about raising the profile of the sport on these shores, and what better way to do that than invite the most successful Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, and his mates to a party? Metaphorically, they trashed the place. They will probably do so again this afternoon, live on BBC 1.
On the plus side, last night there were colour, noise, a sell-out crowd of 2,000 and five world records, all to the United States, in the first 14 of 30 events. The other 16 are today. Six swimmers, three from each side, contest each race, with five points for a win, three for second and one for third.
Honourable mentions last night for E-Stars individuals go to Liverpool's Fran Halsall and Lizzie Simmonds from Lincoln. Halsall won the 100 metres freestyle and 100m butterfly, while Simmonds took the 200m backstroke. The double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington was beaten into second in the 400m freestyle by Allison Schmitt.
Phelps did not waltz away with the show for one reason. Unlike most of the competitors, he shunned the polyurethane bodysuits that will be banned from next month. Instead the 24-year-old, 14-times Olympic champion wore a 2010 fabric jammer, limiting his competitiveness against rivals dressed in shiny gear. Sheer class told anyway as he won the 100m butterfly, although he could do no better than third in the 100m freestyle last night. He also earned some of the biggest cheers of the evening just for being here.
In an event sponsored by British Gas, the US overall were cooking on it and the E-Stars (in mitigation from only Britain, Germany and Italy) were mostly toast. It was decent entertainment though. Think the Ryder Cup, but wetter, without the golf, and with some genuine camaraderie between team members. Or the IPL, in water, without the cricket, and in dressing gowns, at least to begin with.
The Americans got down to business the moment they disrobed, clocking three world records in the first two races. First the US women won the 4x100m medley relay, then the US men did the same, with Nick Thoman setting an individual world backstroke mark in that opening leg.
Julia Smit then set a world record in the 400m individual medley, with Scotland's Hannah Miley recording a European record in third. Rebecca Soni set the other world mark, in the 200m breaststroke
Battle, or more accurately trouncing, resumes at 2.30pm.
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