Indianapolis:Just for kicks, Michael Phelps nearly set a world record in an event he won't be swimming at the Olympics.
Phelps won the 200-meter backstroke with a scintillating performance on Wednesday night at the US National Championships, finishing more than two seconds ahead of a field that included world record holder Ryan Lochte.
Capturing the 33rd national title of his brilliant career, Phelps touched with a time of 1 minute, 54.65 seconds - the third-fastest ever.
"I can't be disappointed, even though I was pretty close," he said. "That's what keeps me hungry: to be so close and not achieve it."
Lochte's mark of 1:54.32, set in March at the world championships, barely held up.
Aaron Peirsol is the only other swimmer to go faster than Phelps in the 200 back at 1:54.44, the previous world record.
"Just another Michael moment basically. "We'd like for him to come back one day and get that record. But it probably goes to the back burner in the short term," said his coach, Bob Bowman.
Clearly not in top form after starting off the night with a win in the grueling 400 individual medley, Lochte struggled to a fourth-place finish in the 200 back at 1:59.11.
Phelps shared top billing on night two of the meet with 40-year-old Dara Torres, who surprised everyone, herself included, by winning the 100 freestyle.
The 14th national title of her long career came more than a quarter-century after the first, as a 14-year-old in 1982.
Torres came out of retirement last summer and quickly established herself as a legitimate contender to make the Olympics for the fifth time. Her first appearance came at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
"I really wasn't expecting this," Torres said while sprawled out on the floor of the media room, getting an impromptu massage. "Now the bar is raised a little higher. I have to kind of change my goals."
She posted the sixth-fastest time in US history, 54.45 seconds, and was just two-hundredths off her personal best, set in 2000.
Torres is already working on some age jokes that should play well in Beijing.
Asked about her first national title, she quipped, "I don't think I remember it. When you get old, you lose your memory."
Someone pointed out that the men's 100 free champion was 19-year-old David Walters, who beat out a strong field that included 50 free world champion Ben Wildman-Tobriner and South African stars Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling.
"He's my son," Torres said of Walters. "Well, he could be."
Walters won in 48.96, edging Neethling by two-hundreds of a second while Schoeman was sixth at 49.15.