Highlights from the US Grand Prix Meets at Omaha and Charlotte, and the Janet Evans Intl in Los Angeles: Phelps, 53.42 100m back; Mellouli and Jensen on 3:44 in 400m free; Lochte on 3:49 in different waters; Smit 1:57.34 and Coughlin 0.03sec behind on 200m free.
Omaha - Toyota Grand Prix: With a 53.42sec victory, off a 26.20 split, in the 100m backstroke, Michael Phelps won the 2008 series and collected the US$20,000 prize as he warmed up for Olympic trials at the end of the month. His final programme for Beijing, 2008, will be confirmed any day now.
Margaret Hoelzer, world champion in the 200m back, claimed the 100m in Omaha in 1:00.38; Erik Vendt won the 400m medley in 4:14.99; the women's long medley went to Caitlin Leverenz in 4:38.81; Peter Vanderkaay clocked 1:46.45 in the 200m freestyle; the four-length free for women went to Allison Schmitt, clubmate of Phelps and Vanderkaay, in 1:57.48; Megan Jendrick (as Quann the 2000 Olympic champion) raced to a 1:07.41 victory in the 100m breaststroke; Henrick Barbosa (BRA) took the men's sprint breaststroke in 1:01.40.
Charlotte - Toyota Grand Prix: Mary DeScenza went 2:08.10 in the 200m butterfly; Cullen Jones clocked 22.33 in the 50m freestyle; Gemma Spofforth (GBR) clocked 1:01.09 in the 100m backstroke; Luca DeMatteis swam 2:13.65 in the 200m breaststroke; Ryan Lochte's advance continued apace with a 3:49.25 400m freestyle, from which he emerged to say: 'I knew the field I was racing against, and I knew I had to get out there and press it a little bit. I might have pressed it a little too hard at the beginning, but I?m really happy with my final time. I haven?t raced a lot since about seven or eight weeks ago at Short Course Worlds. Just getting back in the water and racing again gets me going. Olympic Trials is going to be amazing.'
Janet Evans Intl, Los Angeles: Julia Smit beat Natalie Coughlin by 0.03sec to win the 200m freestyle in a meet record of 1:57.34, third-best ever for an American. 'The 200 free was definitely a breakthrough for me. It was my best time by four seconds. It was a really big surprise when I looked on the scoreboard. I was astonished. My plan was to go out as fast as I could in the 200 and see how it goes,' said Smit. She was back later for a 4:38.48 win in the 400m medley and a 2:14.34 victory in the 200m backstroke. Back from suspension after taking a stimulant to get him through exam work, Oussama Mellouli, of Tunisia and Trojan Swim Club, clocked 3:44.79 in the 400m free to get the better of Olympic 1,500m silver medallist Larsen Jensen, also below the 3:45 mark, on 3:44.86. Third place went to Ryan Cochrane (CAN), 19, in a Canadian record of 3:47.21, inside his previous best of 3:47.92. Time was when the 3:45 mark at which Evgeny Sadovyi won the 1992 Olympic crown carried the hallmark of 'Olympic medal hope' but the dam built on the back of Ian Thorpes's 3:40 swims is ready to burst.