MONTREAL (AP) – Michael Phelps wanted to try some new events at the World Swimming Championships.

Maybe he should have stuck with the ones he does so well.

Phelps finished a disappointing seventh in the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night, an also-ran in a thrilling race won by Italy’s Filippo Magnini.

Poland’s Otylia Jedrzejczak claimed the starring role on this night, breaking her own world record in the women’s 200 butterfly.

But, before the evening was done, Phelps was back on top in one of his more familiar events. He won his third gold medal of the meet by repeating as the world champion in the 200 individual medley.

Still, Phelps admitted that he’s not the same swimmer as the one who dominated the Athens Olympics last summer.

“The double was tough,” Phelps said. “Last year, it was easier because I was in a whole lot better shape than I am now. But it’s good for me to get ready for the next three years and the other meets coming up. I want to be able to double in as many meets as I can.”

Magnini held off the South African duo of Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling, winning in a meet-record time of 48.12 seconds.

And what about Phelps? He was never a factor.

“It was tough,” the 20-year-old American said. “I wasn’t able to get out with those guys. I was in their wake and I was just destroyed.”

Phelps was last at the turn and managed to pass only one swimmer before touching in 48.99 – failing to even match his time from the semifinals a day earlier.

Jedrzejczak had no such problems in the 200 fly.

Australia’s Jess Schipper led until the final 25 meters, when Jedrzejczak pulled slightly ahead. Schipper made a great surge to the wall but came up short of the winning time: 2 minutes, 5.61 seconds.

Jedrzejczak broke her previous record of 2:05.78, set three years ago, and needed to go that fast to claim the gold. Schipper also eclipsed the previous mark in 2:05.65, but it was only good enough for second. Japan’s Yuko Nakanishi took the bronze, nearly four seconds behind the top two.

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, wanted to expand the swimmer’s repertoire leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So, they dropped two of his winning events from the Athens Games – the 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley – in favor of the 100 and 400 freestyle.

The decision didn’t work out so well, at least in the short term.

Phelps failed to qualify for the final of the 400, managing just the 18th-best time in the preliminaries. And, even with defending Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband sitting out the championships to recover from an injury, the American was no match for his remaining competition in the 100.

Magnini, in the very next lane, celebrated his victory by balancing himself atop the rope – briefly obstructing Phelps’ attempt to get a look at his time on the scoreboard.

Schoeman, on world-record pace at the turn, faded to the silver in 48.28, just ahead of Neethling at 48.34.

Phelps can win no more than six medals in Montreal, which would equal his performance at the 2003 worlds and be two shy of his six-gold, eight-medal haul from Athens.

“Michael is human,” said Mary Descenza, another American swimmer. “I always hope for him to medal, but if he doesn’t, I’m still proud to have him on our team.”

In the 200 IM, Phelps trailed Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh after the butterfly and backstroke legs, but fought back to take a minuscule lead during the breaststroke.

Getting a great push off the wall, Phelps came out of the water with a bigger edge and held it all the way to the end with a powerful freestyle stroke – a more familiar sight after his disappointment an hour earlier.

Phelps won in 1:56.68. nearly a second ahead of Cseh. Another American, Ryan Lochte, took the bronze.

The U.S. also won the women’s 800 free relay. Australia led most of the way, but Kaitlin Sandeno overtook Linda MacKenzie just before the final turn and went on to finish in 7:53.70, a new meet record.

The Aussies took silver in 7:54.06, with China three more seconds back in third.

Natalie Coughlin, Katie Hoff and Whitney Myers also swam for the winning team.

Australia did capture gold in the women’s 50 backstroke. Giaan Rooney won the non-Olympic event in 28.63, ahead of China’s Gao Chang (28.69) and Germany’s Antje Buschschulte (28.72).

Another American, Jason Lezak, finished fourth in the 100 free. He was surprised that Magnini improved on his personal best by a staggering 61-hundredths of a second.

“He dropped quite a bit of time, but it’s a close race no matter who wins,” Lezak said. “The 100 free has been a fast event for a long time and there has always been a lot of depth, but even more so now than ever before.”

Phelps has a lot of work to do if he wants to be one of the serious contenders. For now, he’s simply not as fast as swimmers such as Magnini and Schoeman.

“The best man won it,” Schoeman said.

The South African went with his usual strategy, going out so strong that he was more that seven-tenths of a second below world-record pace at the turn. But he couldn’t hold on in the final 50.

“I was hurting,” Schoeman said. “I knew I had to swim my race the way do and hope that they don’t catch me. He did, so c’est la vie.”

AP-ES-07-28-05 2040EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.