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Coughlin is three for three in quick stop at Santa Clara

Swimmer has other plans after her one-day sweep and will leave the spotlight to Phelps.

June 30, 2007|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — Talk about efficiency.

U.S. Olympic swim star Natalie Coughlin hit the water in three races and came away with three victories Friday night at the Santa Clara International Invitational: the 100-meter freestyle (54.12 seconds), the 100 butterfly (58.45) and a relay.

She came, she saw and she conquered ... and now she's moving.

Well, not doing all of it.

"I've actually hired a professional organizer to help me out even more," said Coughlin, who is just moving within the Bay Area. "I told my parents, if they ever need it, 'This is the coolest thing ever.' "

She's traveling with little baggage, in and out of the pool. The move means Coughlin's Santa Clara experience was limited to one day this year, as the spotlight will shift to Michael Phelps on the final two days of the meet.

Phelps was hardly idle, though. He went just under his meet record in the 200 butterfly, winning in 1:56.05. His previous meet record, 1:56.06, came in 2003, but Phelps was not overwhelmed with his opening finals swim here.

"I wanted to be faster, but I think we haven't been doing much butterfly training, so I guess it's probably not a bad swim but definitely not where I want to be," he said. "I wanted to break 1:56. Yes, it's only [a few] one-hundredths away, but still."

Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, are wizards at finding motivation and significance seemingly anywhere. After the morning preliminaries, they looked to the future, talking about the Olympic trials next summer in Omaha, and figured out that this relatively ordinary Friday in Santa Clara held some significance.

"Now it's time to get back on track to head in the right direction for the big picture, which is next summer," Phelps said. "Bob and I were walking out today and we said this time exactly next year will be -- the first prelim session of the Olympic trials will be over.

He will swim in five more individual events, two tonight and three on Sunday.

Coughlin probably will be hanging out with her professional organizer. "That's why I'm only here today," she said.

She was pleased with her performance, considering she made a recent trip to Europe and has an intense training schedule.

"I've been lifting really hard this week," she said. "There were points where I had funny posture -- because my butt and legs were in so much pain. It started to look a little better yesterday."

Still, the Santa Clara meet nearly always brings out her best. This was her 13th straight appearance at this event, and she recalled her first time, swimming the 50 free as a 12-year-old in the era of Tom Jager and Summer Sanders.

Other winners included world-record holders Leisel Jones of Australia in the 200 breaststroke (2:24.46) and Brendan Hansen in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.29). Jones, who recently switched coaches and moved to Melbourne from Brisbane, beat a stellar field that included 2004 U.S. Olympian Tara Kirk and rising 16-year-old Caitlin Leverenz, who finished second and third.

"That's what motivates me to train as well, knowing that in women's breaststroke, there's so much depth," Jones said.


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