Superfish Beaten - Shock! Well, Not Much Of One...
Craig Lord
Dominik Meichtry of Switzerland keeps Michael Phelps at bay by wiping a chunk of his best to qualify at the helm for the semis of the 200 free, in 1:45.80; Baltimore Bullet meets Mr President

Dominik Meichtry is coached at Cal, University of California and up to the end of last year had not cracked 1:48 over 200m free. The 23-year-old ripped a chunk off his best time to keep Michael Phelps at bay here tonight as the thunder cracked above the Water Cube and the rain poured down on the giant bubbles of the roof to make a sound like stampeding herds at migration.

In 2007, Meichtry had a best of 1:48.49. This year, he has improved his best no fewer than seven times, from 1:48.44 to the 1:45.80 in which he qualified fastest for the semi-finals. Superfish cruised in at 1:46.58 for fourth place.  It took 1.47.81 to make the semis, compared to 1:49.47 in Melbourne 2007 and 1:49.91 in Athens 2004.

Phelps, meantime, got to meet his President on a day when Bush called on China to allow more religious freedom. All in day's work: Bush and first lady Laura Bush, their daughter, Barbara, and former President George H.W. Bush cheered from the stands of the Water Cube as Phelps sped to a world-record 400m medley win in the morning.

"God, what a thrill to cheer for you!" Bush told Phelps after the race. The swimmer enjoyed the moment: "That was a pretty cool feeling."

The President also told reporters: "It just goes to show that God is universal. No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion." He visited a church in the capital and said: "As you know, I feel very strongly about religion."

Sport and politics too, perhaps.

Phelps described the President's presence as "pretty neat" but not the reason for welling up on the podium. He said: "I wanted to sing on the medal podium but I couldn't stop crying. I started thinking about everything that happened this year and the ups and downs we've had. I was just happy to get the first one under my belt. Thinking about all that just made me more and more emotional. Having the stars and stripes, representing your country and just thinking about everything. Everybody's watching at home and it's just an honour to do what I did."