SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) —  Michael Phelps has found a new event to dominate, easily winning the 200-meter backstroke Saturday night at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix.

Without world record holder Ryan Lochte in the field, the 14-time Olympic gold medalist led the entire way and touched the wall more than 3 seconds ahead of the competition at 1 minute, 57.05 seconds. Mitchell Larkin was second and Matthew Swanston third.

“It’s fun. Just being able to get in the water and do something different every now and then is good,” Phelps said.

The event wasn’t part of Phelps’ record haul of eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It’s one of the changes Phelps is considering to his schedule ahead of next year’s London Games.

Phelps was an unusual spectator for his signature event, watching the 400 individual medley from the stands as Ryan Lochte and others exhausted themselves in the grueling race. Lochte, slowed by a strained left knee, finished second behind Brazil’s Thiago Pereira.

“I will say, watching the 400 IM, I do not want to be back in the pool for that race,” Phelps said, chuckling. “I don’t miss that race.”

Phelps, turning 26 at the end of June, isn’t planning to enter eight events in London and try to repeat his record performance. He has reiterated he will drop the 400 individual medley and could trim his schedule more.

Among the other notable winners: Park Tae-hwan of South Korea won the 200 freestyle for his third victory of the grand prix. He also won the 400 free and beat Phelps by a finger in the 100 free Friday.

Stephanie Rice won the women’s 400 individual medley; Allison Scmitt finished first in the women’s 200 freestyle; Meagen Nay won the women’s 200 backstroke; William Copeland took the men’s 50 free; and Madison Kennedy was first in the women’s 50 freestyle.

In the relays, the Australian teams swept.

Brittany Elmslie, Bronte Barratt, Nay and Rice won the women’s 800 freestyle, and Ryan Napoleon, Ridge Grimsey, Nicholas D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk took the men’s 800 free.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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