| float like a butterfly: Petria Thomas powers her way to the 200m butterfly title at the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Yokohama Tuesday. (AFP)
Yokohama: Tom Malchow got a rare victory over world record holder Michael Phelps in the 200 metres butterfly as American swimmers won four out of six finals at the Pan Pacific championships on Tuesday.
Jennifer Thompson, Lindsay Benko and Brendan Hansen also won gold as the US continued to dominate in Yokohama, finishing the day with a 12-8 lead over fierce rivals Australia in the gold medal standings.
Petria Thomas and an Ian Thorpe-inspired 4x200 metres freestyle relay team grabbed gold medals for Australia in the last two finals of the day to avoid a fourth-day whitewash. Thorpe again rescued Australia on the anchor leg after a strong third 200 metres from Phelps had given American teammate Chad Carvin a slight edge over the Pan Pacific poster-boy.
But Carvin accepted the inevitable as Thorpe sped past him on his way to a fast leg of one minute, 44.80 seconds — just 0.74 outside his own world record — to bring Australia home in 7:09.00 and claim his fourth gold medal of the competition.
Earlier in the evening, Phelps had stormed into an early lead in the 200 butterfly and was 0.17 seconds under record pace at 100 metres.
However, Malchow came back strongly to turn first at the 150-mark and hung on in a tight finish to clock a new championship best of 1:55.21 seconds, 0.20 ahead of Phelps.
Phelps, who won the 400 metres individual medley on Sunday, had beaten Malchow in every major competition since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
But he had no answer this time as Malchow showed the 17-year-old he will not have it all his own way at the world championships in Barcelona next year. Takashi Yamamoto took bronze in a Japanese record of 1:55.57. “I felt really solid going into the wall at 150. Michael and I have been going back and forth for a while, so this is sweet,” said Malchow, who was almost ruled out of the championships after twisting his knee in training last week.
Thompson also turned back the clock as she won the 50 metres freestyle title in a personal best of 25.13, exactly one second outside the world record set by Dutchwoman Inge de Bruijn at the Olympics.
The 29-year-old, who took a break from swimming after a hattrick of gold medals in Sydney, only returned to the sport in June but led from start to finish to edge out Jodie Henry of Australia by 0.19 seconds.
“It was a real buzz. I haven’t felt like that about a race since I broke the 100 butterfly world record (in 1999),” said the eight-time Olympic champion. “I have never really enjoyed the 50 but I only had nine weeks to train this summer, so I felt fast and zippy and that’s how you should feel for the 50.”
Benko won the first American gold medal of the evening in the 200 metres freestyle in 1:58.74 to gain some consolation for missing out on the world championships in Fukuoka with a broken kneecap last year.
Elka Graham took silver in 1:59.72 with Australian teammate Giaan Rooney third in 1:59.82.World champion Brendan Hansen then clocked 2:11.80 to win gold in men’s 200 metres breaststroke with Jim Piper of Australia runner-up in 2:12.53. Daisuke Kimura took bronze for Japan in 2:12.71.
But Thomas, who won five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, salvaged some Australian pride with a convincing victory in the women’s 200 metres butterfly title, touching in 2:08.31 to beat Mary Descenza of the US by over a second.