Tom Shields upset three-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps by one hundredth of a second to win the 100-meter butterfly at the US national championships Friday.
Shields touched in 51.29 seconds, tying for the second-fastest time in the world this year. Phelps was second in 51.30, losing for the second time in as many events this week — his biggest meet since making a comeback in April.
“It was pretty terrible,” said Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach. Four of the seven quickest times in the world were recorded in the morning preliminaries, led by Phelps’ 51.17. But he couldn’t keep it together in the final against Shields, who won the 200 butterfly earlier in the meet. “I knew I could make it a race, so I decided to go with confidence,” said Shields.
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Phelps is still likely to earn a spot on the U S team for the Pan Pacific Championships this month, but he could have guaranteed himself a trip to Australia with a win in the event that he calls “my baby”. Tim Phillips was third in 51.54. Ryan Lochte finished fifth in 52.21.
Phillips led after one lap, when Phelps was seventh. Known as a devastating closer, Phelps closed hard, battling Shields every inch of the way.
“I knew in the last 15 (meters) it was going to be close,” Shields said. “I took one look. Phelps swims with these ridiculously high elbows.”