Michael Phelps is back and poised to dominate the Olympics again – For The Win
While the big boys and girls were over in Russia competing in the 2015 world championships, the last major international competition before next year’s Olympics, Michael Phelps was relegated to swimming a not-as-big, but still-important national meet in San Antonio as part of his six-month suspension for DUI that ended four months ago but for some reason included August’s worlds.
And though I, like many others, questioned the seemingly arbitrary suspension techniques (let’s just say this decision makes Roger Goodell look like Oliver Wendell Holmes), it may have proved to be a boon to Phelps, his attitude and his swimming, as the 30-year-old made the most of his ban and served notice that the world’s best swimmer may have been 6,000 miles away from the world’s biggest meet.
In each of Phelps’ three individual events at nationals, his winning time was faster than the winning time over in Kazan, suggesting Phelps could have won three golds at worlds if not for USA Swimming’s absurd ban, which looked even dumber when America had a dog performance in Russia. Only two Americans won individual gold — Katie Ledecky and Ryan Lochte — which was the worst performance for the U.S. in 21 years.
Here are Phelps’ winning times in San Antonio against the winning times in Kazan.
Even more impressive, here are Phelps’ 2015 national times against the times that won gold at the London Olympics:
So, Phelps times from San Antonio were faster than every winning time at the 2015 worlds and 2012 Olympics, including by a whopping 0.76 seconds over his own Olympic gold time in the 100 fly. The only exception: Phelps’ own time in the 200 IM. However, though the 2015 Phelps didn’t best the 2012 Phelps, he beat everyone else who competed in that hotly anticipated 200 IM in London. Simply put: This is the best Phelps has swum since Beijing.
The highlight of the whole weekend was Chad Le Clos, the bombastic South African who stunned Phelps in the 200 fly at the London Olympics, won the 100 fly at worlds and then took a shot across the bow of Phelps, saying the all-time Olympic champion “can keep quiet now.” First, Phelps hadn’t really been saying much of anything other the 200 fly times this year were slow. (They were.) Second, 24 hours later, Phelps went out and beat Le Clos’ 100 time by a tenth of a second, suggesting Le Clos is the one who should be keeping quiet.
If you transfer Phelps’ numbers to Kazan (and obviously there are variables between pools and competition between Phelps’ nationals and the world meet), he would have won three individual golds in Russia, his best haul since his historic five-medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It all sets up for a spectacularly fun swimming competition at the Rio Olympics, which will be taking place exactly one year from now. There’s still 361 days to go, but for right now, it’s, improbably, advantage Phelps.
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