LONG BEACH - Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps did the unthinkable on Monday night by competing in an amazing three straight events at the Toyota USA Swimming Grand Prix Series at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool.
And even though he only won one of them, it was clear that his reputation grew more by losing.
Phelps, who has eight Olympic medals to his credit, including six gold, won the 100-yard backstroke, took second place in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard breaststroke.
But afterward, his opponents sounded in awe by the fact that the world record-holder in the 200- meter freestyle, 200 IM and the 400 IM would even attempt such a schedule with hardly any rest in between races.
"For Michael to do three events like that is pretty amazing," said Brendan Hansen, who won the 100-yard breaststroke. "He never ceases to amaze me. When we were racing tonight, I didn't see him in the water, but you always know he's around. You can always feel his presence. That's why in our race, I sprinted out as fast as I could, and I just tried to hang on.
"I'm happy with my time, and this is a great event to work out the kinks before the World Championships start in March."
Phelps began the day by racing in the 100-yard butterfly,eventually losing to Ian Crocker 45.23 to 46.05.
But just minutes later, Phelps re-entered the pool and defeated Peter Marshall to win the 100-yard backstroke 45.90 to 46.28.
In his final event of the day, it was Hansen who got the best of him in the 100-yard breaststroke 52.81 to 54.67.
"Today was the perfect time for me to do this," Phelps said. "It was the last day of the meet after three weeks of training. The biggest thing was to see how mentally tough I was. You're not going to feel fresh every day, but days like this help you in the long run, especially when you're training for the World Championships and the Olympics.
"I think I'm headed in the right direction, and today, I just wanted to race as much as possible today and have fun."
"Michael definitely gets the adrenaline going," Crocker said. "And at the same time, racing him brings out the best in you. I think we all have the same strategy against him. Try to put him away early and hold on for dear life. I guess my plan worked today."
On the women's side, Natalie Coughlin, who won five Olympic medals at the 2004 Games in Athens, was the only two-time winner. But she isn't going to have much time to enjoy it.
Coughlin won the 100-yard backstroke in 50.67 and the 100-yard butterfly in 50.82, but after the meet, she said she was planning a short training trip in Australia and would be on a plane early this morning.
"I'm going to Australia to get some sun and to recharge my batteries," Coughlin said. "It's been a long time since I swam in multiple events, but it was good practice for the World Championships. This is a great training meet. It allows everybody to compete at the highest level, and it allows us to see what we need to work on."