Coughlin lowers freestyle record

Michael Phelps won the 400 individual medley, but lost in the breaststroke.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Natalie Coughlin lowered her own 4-year-old American record in the 200-yard freestyle, and Michael Phelps won his 400 individual medley specialty but lost to Brendan Hansen in the 200 breaststroke at the Southern California Grand Prix of Swimming on Sunday night.
Coughlin won in 1 minute, 41.66 seconds -- 99 hundredths of a second faster than the time she swam in 2002 as a junior at California. Kaitlin Sandeno finished second in 1:46.61.
"The last 25 [yards] I could hear the crowd," Coughlin said. "The pool is so small, the noise echoes and I can feel the energy."
Also won 50 freestyle
Coughlin returned later to win the 50 free in 22.03 seconds, defeating 1996 Olympian Allison Wagner. It was Coughlin's third victory of the meet, a tuneup for the world championships in March.
The meet is being contested in yards, instead of Olympic meters.
Phelps challenged Hansen, the world record holder in meters, in the 200 breast and came up 3.12 seconds short.
Hansen won in 1:53.78; Phelps finished in 1:56.90, a personal best in an event he hasn't raced in three years.
"I could see him pretty much the whole time," Phelps said.
"I was like, 'Maybe I can catch him,' and then I was like, 'What am I thinking? There's absolutely no way I can catch him.' It was definitely fun to be able to race the best breaststroker of all time."
Hansen said he was nervous with Phelps in the field.
"I heard the crowd start going and I thought, 'I hope Michael isn't too close to me,"' he said.
"It's so important to race when we're tired and that's what we're doing now."
Third win of meet
Phelps picked up his third victory of the meet in the 400 IM, winning easily in 3:39.61.
"Tonight was a really, really good night for me," he said.
Sandeno, who trains with Phelps in Ann Arbor, Mich., notched her fourth victory in three days, winning the 400 IM in 4:09.74.
"You can't not swim fast here," she said about the Belmont Plaza Olympic pool, where she competed as a youngster while growing up in Lake Forest.
"I cannot think of a meet I've swam poorly here. My family is here and being in front of a home crowd, you want to do your best."
Sandeno's family and other swimmers have benefited from her victories and generosity.
She gave away pairs of sunglasses she won to family members, and handed out her 30 cash prizes to younger swimmers.
Jason Lezak, who at 31 trains without a coach or a club team in Irvine, won the 50 free in 19.49 seconds. Fellow Olympian Ian Crocker was second in 19.77.
Training time
Aaron Peirsol, usually on his back in the water as the world record holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes, got in some training time by winning the 200 free in 1:34.96.
"I'm not feeling great, but it was a good swim," he said. "Everyone is pretty tired."
Caitlin Leverenz, a 15-year-old who will compete in the Pan American Games this year, upset Olympian Tara Kirk in the 200 breaststroke.
Leverenz won in 2:08.11; Kirk touched in 2:08.25.
"This is my favorite event," Leverenz said.
"Tara and I have gone head-to-head before and we're friendly competitors."
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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