Phelps breaks record in 400 freestyle at Santa Clara meet

He later picked up his second win of the day in the 200 backstroke.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Michael Phelps set a meet record in the 400 freestyle and also won the 200 backstroke, and Australian Leisel Jones barely held off American Olympian Tara Kirk to win the 100 breaststroke at the Santa Clara Grand Prix on Saturday.

Phelps, owner of five world records and a winner of seven gold medals at the FINA World Championships in March, stepped out of his normal routine to make a rare appearance in the 400 but had no problem dominating the race. His time of 3 minutes, 47.34 seconds was more than 3.49 seconds faster than Michael Klueh, who finished second.

“I’m still learning to swim that race,” Phelps said. “To be able to do something special in that race you’re going to have to control the first 200 (meters) a little bit more. With time, I’ll be able to learn how to swim that a little better and in the long run we’ll be pretty happy.”

Phelps later picked up his second win of the day and third of the four-day meet when he won the 200 back in 1:56.95, tying Aaron Peirsol’s meet record.

Seeking six golds

Phelps won the 200 butterfly on Friday and can finish the four-day event with six gold medals. He is entered in the 100 free, the 200 IM and the 100 back.

“My backstroke’s been coming along pretty well the last few months,” Phelps said. “Since the breaststroke’s almost there and so is the (medley), the next stroke to really nail is the backstroke.”

Jones and Kirk, who finished 1-2 at the FINA world championships in Australia in March, staged their second to-the-wall finish in seven days. Jones won the 100 breast at the Pan Pacific Invitational at Stanford on June 24, edging Kirk by 0.35 hundredths of a second with an outstretched hand at the wall.

She did the same thing Saturday, winning in 1:07.09. Kirk finished in 1:07.35.

“We always seem to do that. I think we even did that at worlds,” Jones said.

“We’ve got a friendly rivalry sort of going on. It’s good when you have a strong competition like that. It makes good exciting racing so it makes for good watching.”

Australia’s Sarah Katsoulis placed third while American Megan Jendrick, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, was fourth.

Close finish

Jones, who set a meet record when she won the 200 breaststroke on Friday in 2:24.46, led throughout the 100 breaststroke but Kirk came on late to push the two-time world champion over the final 20 meters. Jones touched the wall first, 0.26 hundredths of a second ahead of Kirk.

“She’s the fastest woman in the world, there’s no question about that,” Kirk said of Jones. “She seems to be getting me at the walls a little bit [faster] so maybe I need to work on that.”

In the 50 free, Australian Eamon Sullivan held off world champion Ben Wildman-Tobriner to win in 22.30 seconds. Wildman-Tobriner finished in 22.35.

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