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Phelps blazes in 200 freestyle

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Already acclaimed as the world’s fastest swimmer, Michael Phelps believes he has found the secret to going even faster.

It’s called being in shape.

“It’s crazy what training actually does,” he said Friday night after cruising to the second-best time in the world this year in winning the 200 free at the Columbus Grand Prix. “When you do start to train, and you do start working out, you do get in better shape. It’s kind of wild how that works.”

Taking care not to push himself too hard and too stay on pace, Phelps was in control from the start of the event at Ohio State’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. Greeted by a loud ovation when he walked in with his fellow competitors, he had a big lead from the instant he bobbed to the surface from the start and the 14-time gold medalist won easily in 1:48.41.

In his first meet since spending more than three weeks at altitude in Colorado, his time was the second only to the 1:45.42 of France’s Yannick Agnel this year.

Phelps said Thursday that he was just starting to regain his focus in the sport after three aimless years that followed his unparalleled eight-gold medal performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

“I said I wanted to be out in 51 (seconds) and just kind of feel like I have control over my speed,” Phelps said. “That’s kind of how it was. I felt kind of like the old me, like being able to control and not just swimming like a spaz. I was really pleased.”

He and coach Bob Bowman have a plan in mind built around event goals and times.

Phelps met his prerace expectations in terms of time and pace. Like a thoroughbred being reined in, he has had difficulties in the past holding himself back.

“Over the last three years that would be all I could do – I wouldn’t be able to control my speed and control my pace of a race,” he said. “Being able to get some training and get my stroke back and be able to have better splits and to work out allowed me to swim that race smarter than I have over the last three years.”

Phelps is pointing to this summer’s Olympics in London as his last.

Another Olympic gold medalist, Natalie Coughlin, coasted to a win in the 100 fly in 59.17.

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