Michael Phelps advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic 200-meter freestyle with a conservative swim Sunday, although rivals Ian Thorpe and Pieter
van den Hoogenband and teammate Klete Keller were faster.
Phelps won his first gold of the Athens Games on Saturday, with a world-record performance in the 400 individual medley. He is trying to break Mark
Spitz's record of seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games.
The 19-year-old from Baltimore was fourth after 50 meters of the 200 free, moved up to third at the 100 mark, was second at 150 and then cruised to
the wall in 1 minute, 48.43 seconds — the fifth-fastest preliminary time.
"I was pretty tired after last night," Phelps said. "I didn't get to bed until after midnight. I wanted to come in and have a strong swim this morning
to be in a good position tonight."
The 200 free final Monday night will pit some of swimming's biggest stars against each other, including the only individual Olympic matchup between
Phelps and Thorpe.
Thorpe, who won gold in the 400 freestyle Saturday night, led the way in 1:47.22. The Aussie world record holder swam in the same heat with Van Den
Hoogenband, who won the race in Sydney in 2000.
Van Den Hoogenband was second-quickest in 1:47.32. Thorpe finished second to the Dutchman in Sydney.
Emiliano Brembilla of Italy was third in 1:47.95.
Keller, of Phoenix, was fourth in 1:47.97, the morning after he earned a bronze in the 400 freestyle behind Thorpe and Grant Hackett.
"I just wanted to make it back in and win my heat, so mission accomplished," Keller said.
Hackett advanced to the 16-man evening semifinal, finishing seventh in 1:48.90.
Phelps stopped to watch the last two heats featuring his main rivals on a television behind the pool deck.
There were plenty of empty seats for the preliminaries. Despite a searing sun, it was slightly cooler Sunday at 81 degrees when the morning