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Michael Phelps wins latest showdown with Lochte at U.S. swim trials

Michael Phelps swam his way to victory in the men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
Michael Phelps swam his way to victory in the men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
By Paul Newberry Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. – Michael Phelps won his latest showdown with Ryan Lochte, capturing the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Friday night.

Phelps led a scintillating race from start to finish, but Lochte was with him stroke for stroke. Their arms were in almost perfect sync as they came to the wall, before Phelps pulled slightly ahead to touch in 1 minute, 55.91 seconds.

Lochte was next at 1:56.22 and had no complaints about his consolation prize: an individual race at the Rio Olympics.

The 11-time medalist injured his groin on the very first day of the meet, struggled in his next few races and was down to his final chance to get a swim of his own at the Summer Games.

Now, that’s out of the way, which means Phelps and Lochte will carry their longtime rivalry to one more event in South America.

Phelps is a three-time defending gold medalist in the 200 IM and the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 18 golds and 22 medals overall.

He’s now locked up two individual events for Rio, having already qualified in the 200 butterfly. After shaking hands with Lochte as they hung together on the rope separating their side-by-side lanes, Phelps hustled off to the warmup pool to get ready for his second race of the night: the semifinals of the 100 fly.

Meanwhile, another defending Olympic champion went down at the trials.

Tyler Clary finished third in the 200 backstroke behind California Aquatics teammates Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley, who will represent the U.S. team in Rio.

Murphy grabbed the lead on the second lap and pulled away to win easily in 1:53.95 seconds. He completed a sweep of the backstroke events, having also won the 100.

Pebley held on for the second spot, touching in 1:54.77 to earn his first trip to the Olympics.

Clary was next at 1:55.33, ending his hopes of defending the gold medal he won in London.

Murphy seemed happier for his teammate, turning toward Pebley and screaming when he saw a “2” beside his name. Pebley held a hand over his face, and then defiantly splashed the water in triumph.

Clary hung alone on a rope in the third lane, unable to take his eyes off the scoreboard. Finally, he climbed over to congratulate the two swimmers who ended his Olympics hopes.

“That’s it,” Clary said. “I couldn’t be happier to be sending Team USA off with two backstrokers that I have a lot of respect for, and I know they are going to represent Team USA well in Rio.”

Murphy wasn’t the only one pulling off a sweep.

Lilly King followed up her victory in the 100 breaststroke by winning the 200 in 2:24.08 seconds. The 19-year-old from Indiana was followed by Molly Hannis, a 24-year-old who swims for Tennessee Aquatics. She took the second spot for Rio at 2:24.39, yet another swimmer who will be an Olympic rookie.

It wasn’t totally a night for the upstarts.

Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian were the top two qualifiers in the semifinals of the 50 freestyle.

The 35-year-old Ervin led the way in 21.55, while Adrian was second quickest in 21.60. Both men are already on the team, with Ervin still seeking an individual event to go with his relay duty and Adrian set to defend his 100 free title from the London Games.

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