FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Michael Phelps shattered the American record in the 200-meter individual medley Monday on the opening day of the U.S. National Swimming Championships.
Phelps, of Baltimore, finished in 1 minute, 58.68 seconds, to break the U.S. mark of 1:59.77 set by Tom Dolan in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Finland's Jani Sievinen set the world record of 1:58.16 in Rome in 1994.
"My first 50, I felt unbelievable," Phelps said. "Turning into the breaststroke I heard people screaming and I knew something was going on, so I pretty much tried to turn it on and get in ahead."
The only Alaskan to swim on Monday was Derek Gibb, a 1999 Petersburg High School graduate whose family now lives in Juneau.
Gibb competed on the Auburn Aquatics 400 free relay team, which took fifth place in 3:26.90. Gibb swam the third leg of the relay, posting splits of 24.49 seconds for his first 50 meters and 51.96 for his full 100. Gibb, a junior at Auburn University, was teamed with Auburn sophomore Clay Kirkland, senior Andrew Haidinyak and sophomore Ryan Wochomurka.
The Novaquatics A team of California won the race in 3:20.68. The winning relay team featured Thomas Austin, Kicker Vencill, Scott Tucker and Jason Lezak.
Natalie Coughlin of Concord, Calif., barely edged Jenny Thompson of Dover, N.H., to win the 100 butterfly in 58.49 seconds.
The 29-year-old Thompson has only been back in the water for about two months after an extended break following the 2000 Olympics, where she won three gold medals.
"I really felt good about what happened," said Thompson, the most-decorated American swimmer in Olympic history with 10 overall medals, including eight golds. "It was nice to come back and be the underdog."
Coughlin, seeded second to Thompson going into the 100 butterfly final, said the night race was more difficult than the preliminaries.
"It's great to be swimming against her and it's amazing she got into shape so quickly," Coughlin said.
In other finals Monday, Maggie Bowen of Jackson, Miss., won the 400 individual medley in 4:43.23, and Klete Keller of Phoenix took the 400-meter freestyle in 3:48.60.
There was a tie in the women's 400 free relay, as both the Novaquatics B team of California and the Texas Aquatics A team posted identical winning times of 3:46.55.
The top swimmers from this meet, depending on their eligibility, will represent the United States at the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships, the 2003 Pan American Games, the 2003 World University Games and the 2003 World Championships.
Gibb is expected to compete in the 50-meter freestyle, the 100 free, the 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay later in the meet. Gibb didn't compete in last year's national championships, but in 2000 when the meet served as the Olympic Trials he finished 31st in the 50 free and tied for 71st place in the 100 free.
At the NCAA Championships in March, Gibb earned all-America honors by finishing seventh in the 50-yard freestyle and also took 39th place in the 100 free. His Auburn relay teams took fourth place in the 200 free relay, fourth in the 400 free relay and sixth in the 200 medley relay.