Michael Phelps seems to be your normal 15-year-old. He likes hanging out with friends, playing video games and listening to rap music.
Well, now he’s got to make time for the Olympics.
The Baltimore teenager became the youngest male swimmer in 68 years to make the American team, heading to Sydney after finishing second to world-record holder Tom Malchow in the 200-meter butterfly tonight.
“Phelps is awesome,” said Malchow, 23, of Ann Arbor, Mich. “I might have retired a little sooner with someone like that coming up. He didn’t get caught up in the hype, which is a credit to him. He stuck to his game plan.”
Faded Down Stretch
Malchow was on pace at the selection trials to break his own world record before fading badly in the final 50 meters. The crowd at the Indiana University Natatorium groaned in disappointment.
There has yet to be a world record at the halfway point of the eight-day games, but Malchow accomplished his main goal by making the Olympic team. His winning time of 1 minute, 56.87 seconds was 1.69 off the mark he set June 17 in Charlotte, N.C.
“Everybody was expecting to see a world record,” Malchow said. “I was trying to provide one, but I got a little too caught up in it. At times, it’s a lot hanging on my head.”
Youngest Member Since 1932
Closing fast, Phelps touched at 1:57.48 to earn the second Olympic berth. He becomes the youngest member of the men’s team since 13-year-old Ralph Flanagan competed in the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
Flanagan didn’t finish his race, the 1,500 freestyle. He bounced back to make the team again four years later, competing in three events in Berlin and winning a silver as part of the 800 freestyle relay.
Phelps, who turned 15 on June 30, actually made this year’s team with ease, cruising away from Jeff Somensatto (1:58.07).
“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” said Malchow, a silver medalist and youngest man on the American team in 1996. “He’s going to find out soon.”
Phelps got a taste of it tonight, attending the first news conference of his life. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole affair.
“I thought I saw second next to my name,” he said. “I wasn’t sure, so I had to take my goggles off to check it out.”
The Phelps family is used to accomplishing big things at a young age. Sister Whitney was only 14 when she made the American team for the 1994 world championships. Two years later, she failed to qualify for the Olympic team.
This time, Whitney was on hand at the trials to cheer for her brother, who has grown 4 inches since January to 6-foot-3. She was one of the first people to hug Phelps after he left the water.
Cristina Teuscher of New York, who won gold in the Atlanta Games on a relay, dominated the women’s 200 individual medley, reaching the finish in 2:13.36 to beat runner-up Gabrielle Rose (2:14.95) by nearly two seconds.
Rose made her second straight Olympic team—with two different countries. She represented Brazil in 1996 but is now an American citizen living in Memphis, Tenn.
Lindsay Benko of Los Angeles captured the night’s other final, the women’s 200 freestyle. She swam 2:00.45 to edge Rada Owen of Chesterfield, Va., who claimed the second spot at 2:00.54 over a fading Samantha Arsenault of Peabody, Mass.
“It wasn’t my best time, but I got my hand on the wall first,” Benko said. “I wish everybody could feel what I’m feeling now.”
Arsenault, who had the fastest time Friday in both the preliminaries and semifinals, had her slowest time (2:00.79) of those three races. She will still go to Sydney for the relays.