Phelps almost cruises to record

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland - Olympic swim star Michael Phelps enjoyed a restful race just minutes from his home, cruising to a 200-yard (182,88m) individual medley victory at the Maryland State Championships.

Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and six more at the 2004 Athens Games, won in 1min:40,58sec in the state meet at the US Naval Academy after dropping out of the 500-yard freestyle to focus on the individual medley event.

While Phelps was half a second off fellow US Olympian Ryan Lochte's US record, his swim was 1,02 seconds faster than his previous best in the event, a time from 2006.

"I felt good in the pool," Phelps said. "For right now, that's very good.

"There are still parts I can improve but to be able to go out and swim my best time and come within half a second (of a US record), I'm very pleased."

Bob Bowman, who coaches Phelps as he continues training towards the 2012 London Olympics, was pleased with the result.

"For him to be just five-tenths off the record is a big step forward," Bowman said. - Sapa-AFP