INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Michael Phelps led all the way in winning the 200-meter freestyle at the World Short Course Championships on Thursday night, giving the world's best swimmer a chance to equal the six gold medals he won at the Athens Olympics.
Phelps touched the wall first in 1 minute, 43.59 seconds _ well off rival Ian Thorpe's world mark of 1:41.10 set in 2000. The Aussie is skipping this meet that comes just six weeks after the Summer Games.
``There were a few things I could have changed out there, but I'll take it,'' Phelps said. ``I am tired, but you really can swim the short course under any conditions. I wanted to go 1:44, so I exceeded my goal.''
Rick Say of Canada was second in 1:44.39. Olympian Ryan Lochte of Daytona Beach, Fla., was third in 1:44.97. Phelps and Say recorded the fastest times in the world this year at 25 meters.
Phelps climbed out of the pool and waved to the cheering fans in Conseco Fieldhouse, where the temporary pool was built over the floor used by the NBA's Indiana Pacers.
The 19-year-old from Baltimore finished third in the 200 free at the Olympics, one of two bronze medals he won. The Olympics are swum in a 50-meter pool.
Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird presented Phelps with a bouquet at the awards ceremony. After the U.S. anthem was sung, Phelps motioned for a reluctant Bird to join the medalists on the podium for photos.
Phelps is entered in the 200 butterfly and the 100, 200 and 400 individual medleys. He is expected to swim some relays, too.