OMAHA, Neb. – Michael Phelps 2, Ryan Lochte 1.
In their most stirring duel of the U.S. Olympic trials, Phelps and Lochte went stroke for stroke in the 200-meter individual medley Saturday night, the world’s two greatest swimmers never more than inches apart.
But Phelps led at every turn and turned it on at the end to edge Lochte with a time of 1 minute, 54.84 seconds – nine-hundredths ahead of the runner-up and the fastest time in the world this year.
“It feels good to be back on that side, but I’m sure that’s not going to be the end of us going back and forth,” Phelps said. “I’m just happy to be able to have a good race like that, kind of fold it all together.”
For Phelps, it was an emphatic message on his 27th birthday that he intends to turn his last Olympics into another major medal haul. For Lochte, it was a gutsy performance coming just a half-hour after he won the grueling 200 backstroke.
“The best thing about swimming is racing and stepping up against the world’s best,” Lochte said, who returned for his third race of the night, the semifinals of the 100 butterfly.
Lochte finished third in his heat and set up one last race with Phelps today.
Also at the meet, Jessica Hardy made up for missing out on the Beijing Games because of a failed drug test, winning the 100 freestyle. Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin moved a step closer to having a seven-event program in London, finishing second behind Hardy in 54.15, while 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin missed out on her last realistic chance at an individual Olympic race.
Rebecca Soni locked up a second individual race in London, cruising to an easy win in the 200 breaststroke in 2:21.13. Micah Lawrence is heading to the Olympics for the first time, taking second place in 2:23.03. But 30-year-old Amanda Beard missed out on making a fifth Olympic team, fading to sixth (2:26.42).
Lochte got started on his busy night by winning the 200 back. He was sixth at the first turn, but he quickly moved toward the front.