Gold Coast, Australia: Australia's Cameron McEvoy upset a star-studded field to win the 100m freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships Friday as Michael Phelps claimed his first international gold medal since coming out of retirement. McEvoy swam the race of his life to hit the wall in the third-best time this year of 47.82 seconds ahead of US Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.30) and dual world champion James Magnussen (48.36).
Phelps, the 18-time Olympic champion, led to the turn before finishing fourth in 48.51sec, which clinched his place on the US team for the event at next year's world championships. But the American great also claimed a gold medal as part of the United States' 4x200m freestyle relay, adding to his haul of international titles just four months into his comeback.
"I was able to swim it exactly much the same as I swam this morning," Phelps said of the individual race. "I was out slow, back faster, my finish was really bad, but overall I know what I have to do to get better." Only McEvoy, runner-up to fellow Australian Magnussen in the event at last month's Glasgow Commonwealth Games, bettered his preliminary time of 48.49sec from the morning heats to pull off a career-best victory.
"The outcome was more of a bonus than anything. I am just so happy tonight," said McEvoy, revelling in the opportunity of competing against the world's elite. "I was just so happy to be there in such great company in that race. I just wanted to enjoy it. When am I next going to be in race with people like that?" Adrian, who nudged out Magnussen by one-hundredth of a second to win the Olympic 100m gold in London, said the 100m event could no longer be considered a two-man contest.
"There are a lot of guys. It's silly to think that it's going to be James (Magnussen) and me winning every time because you've got guys like Vlad Morozov, fast Italian guys and Cam is amazing," Adrian said. "It's definitely not a two-man game any more." Magnussen, who has been troubled by a lower back problem and earlier admitted he considered pulling out, said he couldn't catch McEvoy on the night.
"I couldn't have been in a better spot, I just couldn't go with him tonight," Magnussen said. "I didn't quite have the preparation to go fast tonight. It is what it is." McEvoy's unexpected win over decorated team-mate Magnussen completed the men's and women's sprint double at the Pan Pacs for hosts Australia. World and Commonwealth champion Cate Campbell powered to the front to beat her sister Bronte and American Simone Manuel in 52.72sec, a time slower than her heat swim of 52.62.
"I was feeling it a bit from the fast swim this morning, it was stinging a little bit, but I'm happy to come away with the win," Campbell said. "This meet isn't so much about racing for times, it's about racing for places because everyone is in a bit of world of pain at the moment and we're all pulling through." Campbell, who has her eyes on the Olympic title in Rio in 2016, said she will be taking some time off after a gruelling schedule.
"I'll definitely be taking some time off and then refocusing. We've got two years to go and it's looking very good." The powerful American team also won three other golds on the second night with Jessica Hardy in the 100m breaststroke, Elizabeth Beisel in the 400m individual medley and the women's 4x200m freestyle relay.
Japan continued its strong showing by pushing the Phelps-led Americans all the way in the 4x200m freestyle relay and going down by just 0.13secs, while Yasuhiro Koseki won the men's 100m breaststroke and Kosuke Hagino claimed the 400m individual medley. Halfway through the meet, the Americans have eight gold, with Japan and Australia on four.