OMAHA, Neb. – Getting back at rival Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps stretched out to win the 200-meter freestyle final at the U.S. Olympic trials Wednesday, beating Lochte by five hundredths of a second and setting up a duel in London that just gets more tantalizing with every race between the world’s two greatest swimmers.
Lochte won the 400 individual medley on the opening night of the trials, his third straight major victory over the winningest Olympian ever. But Phelps isn’t going down that easily.
He got off to a stronger start than usual, leading at the first turn and holding the advantage through all four laps. Both swimmers got a big boost off the final turn, cutting through the water like missiles, and Lochte went stroke for stroke down the stretch. But Phelps stretched out his right arm at the wall, touching just ahead of Lochte. The winning time was 1 minute, 45.70 seconds.
“Obviously it’s been a while, so it felt better” to beat Lochte, Phelps said.
Phelps didn’t even have time to celebrate, hustling to get ready for the semifinals of the 200 butterfly. He came back 40 minutes later to post the third-fastest qualifying time, moving on to today’s final looking to lock up a chance to defend the gold he won at the past two Olympics.
Phelps decided not to compete in the 100-meter freestyle, which he had entered mainly as insurance in case he failed to qualify for one of his better events.
Also on Wednesday, 17-year-old Missy Franklin gave a stunning performance in the women’s 100 backstroke, signaling a changing of the guard in an event Natalie Coughlin captured at the last two Olympics.
Coming back to the pool just 20 minutes after qualifying for the final of the 200 freestyle, the 17-year-old “Missile” chased down Coughlin on the return lap to win with an American record of 58.85.
“I have dreamed of this moment, but I never thought it would come true at 17 years old,” Franklin said. “Dreams do come true.”