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Phelps takes it easy, records tumble

MICHAEL Phelps was unconcerned about posting only the second fastest time in morning heats for the 200-meter freestyle at the world championships in Rome yesterday.

Paul Biedermann of Germany beat the swimmer who won a record eight gold medals at last year's Beijing Olympics. Phelps won the final heat, but Biedermann's time in the previous heat was faster.

"That's fine. I'll be in the first heat tonight," Phelps said, looking ahead to the evening semifinals.

Three championship records were set in other events - by Gemma Spofforth of Britain in the women's 100-meter backstroke, Rebecca Soni of the United States in the 100 breaststroke and Aschwin Wildeboer of Spain in the men's 100 back.

Six world records were set on Sunday on the opening day of swimming at the Foro Italico, with this likely the last meet where bodysuits made of 100 percent polyurethane will be permitted.

Olympic silver medalist Matt Grevers barely qualified for the semifinals in the 100 back in 16th position after his TYR swimsuit split apart just before he jumped in the pool.

"I didn't completely freak out but definitely I was conscious of it," Grevers said, showing a two-inch rip by his lower back. "Luckily I made it in. Hopefully I'll do better tonight."

Biedermann won the 200 free heats in 1 minute, 45.30 seconds. Swimming his first individual event, Phelps clocked 1:45.60, and Danila Izotov of Russia qualified third in 1:45.86.

Phelps holds the world record of 1:42.96 set at the Beijing Olympics.

Olympic silver medalist Park Tae-hwan of South Korea qualified eighth, after missing the final of the event he won in Beijing - the 400 free. Biedermann broke Ian Thorpe's seven-year-old 400 free world record on Sunday.

Phelps also won his first gold on the opening day in the pool, swimming the leadoff leg for the Americans in the 400 free relay.

"That felt really good coming off the relay. It felt really controlled for a morning swim," Phelps said. "We noticed yesterday that all the guys were swimming faster in the morning, so you have to kind of step up in the morning."

Biedermann doesn't have any designs on beating Phelps when it counts - in today's final.

"I don't think it's going to be much of a duel at all," the German said. "He's a very good racer. I think he looked really relaxed this morning. From looking at the time he's in really great shape."

Still, Phelps was impressed with Biedermann's swim in the 400.

"I still can't believe the 400 free got broken. I thought that was the best record on the book," Phelps said.

"It was crazy to see that go, but people are swimming fast. You usually don't see that in a post-Olympic year, but it's good for the sport. It makes it more exciting."


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