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SWC 2011, Moscow day 1: Super-star Michael Phelps appears "modest"

Swimming World Cup

MOSCOW, Russia - At the press conference, marking the opening of the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup event in the Moscow “Olympiyskiy” swimming pool, the president of the Russian Swimming Federation Vladimir Salnikov proudly said: "The tickets are sold out".

The reason for the sellout at the competition – a traditional one, held in Moscow already for the seventh time – is Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in the world, 14-time Olympic champion. Naturally, a question was asked at the press conference: "Why Michael Phelps is in Moscow? Obviously, he was paid a lot of money to compete here". The question is a reasonable one, Phelps is the Usain Bolt of swimming and the famous Jamaican does not participate even in IAAF competitions without a half-a-million-dollar appearance fee.

However, Phelps, the journalists were told, arrived in Moscow just like everyone else, without any extra payments. Perhaps, he has heard about Moscow competition’s reputation, beloved by many swimming stars from all over the world. The current competition, by the way, is held in the renewed “Olympiyskiy” swimming pool, where starting blocks here are new: now they are state-of-art ones, meeting all requirements and no longer “stealing” hundredths of a second from swimmers at the start.

Naturally, Phelps is the main “attraction” for the spectators at the competition, even because it is easy to fill the relatively small stands of the “Olympiyskiy”. However, the captain of the Russian swimming team Evgeny Korotyshkin thanked the American for attracting interest to the event. “Our task, noticed Korotyshkin, is to gather at the “Olympiyskiy” stands as many kids as possible, future, perhaps, great swimmers.”

That was a kind of surprise for the spectators that Michael Phelps didn’t make the final in the 100m free. Actually there was nothing strange: the level of the results was quite high. Nikita Lobintsev, who won the race in the final, was upset with the absence of the USA star. "If tomorrow I get the lane right next to Michael Phelps it would be fantastic, - he said. - Naturally, I am looking forward to it. But it be will hard to defeat him. I have just returned from a high altitude training camp; I spent 35 hours a week in water. I hope it will bring
its fruits in the nearest future."

Melissa Franklin and Allison Schmitt (both USA) had the same winning time in the 200m free – 1:53.72. Melissa surprised the audience even in the morning when she clocked 2:02.84 in the 200m back. Her final time was slower – 2:03.61 but she still finished first ahead of the strong Russian backstroker Anastasia Zueva.

Zueva didn’t have good luck on Tuesday – she finished second even at her favourite 50m back race where she got the gold at the recent FINA World Championships in Shanghai. The winner Rachel Goh (AUS) was 0.03 faster.

Michael Phelps started twice in the finals and finished first in the 100 IM only. Hidemasa Sano (JPN) and Chad Le Clos (RSA) upset the great swimmer in his pet event, the 200m butterfly.

The men's 50m fly was also surprising. While the audience waited for the duel between the world short course champion Eugeny Korotyshkin and vice-champion of Beijing Olympics Milorad Cavic (both swim together in the same group in Italy) the first place went to Geoff Huegill (AUS, 22.96).