There were some questions about whether or not Michael Phelps would actually swim the 200 breast at U.S. Nationals. Earlier in the meet, he put on earth-shattering performances in the 100 fly, 200 fly, and 200 I.M. to set himself on top of the 2015 world rankings. The 200 breast, however, is not a race we usually see Phelps contest, especially not at end of season meets.
He was definitely present in the prelims this morning, posting a new best time to move from 20th to 6th and qualify for the championship final. Phelps’ 2:12.68 was a massive improvement from his previous best of 2:15.06 from 2007 U.S. Nationals. It was much faster than his most recent swim in the event before today, a 2:18.79 from 2011.
Phelps actually led the race through the first 100 meters. His 1:03.79 halfway split put him ahead of Craig Benson. Benson, however, came home harder. He split a 1:07.73 to Phelps’ 1:08.89. That gave him a final time of 2:12.14, as the two men finished 1-2 in that heat.
Throughout his career, Phelps has won U.S. Nationals in fly, back, and free. If he chooses to swim the event tonight, he could become the 2nd swimmer in history to have won American national championships across all 4 strokes, and the first man to do so. Tracy Caulkins is the only swimmer to date to accomplish that feat.
Because we really don’t have anything to compare this swim to, it’s hard to say whether or not Phelps could make as big a time drop from prelims to finals as he did in his other events. If he wanted to add the all stroke national titles to his already insane resume, he would have to make that kind of drop.
If Phelps decided to go for it, he would be up against Andrew Wilson. Wilson dropped nearly 6 seconds this morning to put up a 2:09.84. That made him the 4th fastest American of 2015 and moved him to 19th in the world this year. Also in contention is Will Licon, who swam a personal best 2:10.10 this morning.