Getting back at rival Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps stretched out to win a thrilling 200-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday night, 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 games, his third straight major victory over the winningest Olympian ever. But Phelps isn't going to go down that easily.
He got off to a stronger start that 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 one minute, 45.70 seconds — five-hundredths of a second ahead of Lochte.
Phelps' victory was even more impressive given his busy night. He didn't even have time to celebrate, hustling back to the warmdown pool to get ready for the semifinals of the 200 butterfly.
Missy Franklin is heading to the Olympics, pushing to the wall with a stunning finish to win the 100-metre backstroke, denying Natalie Coughlin a chance to defend her title in London.
The 17-year-old Franklin signaled a changing of the guard in the event Coughlin won at the last two Olympics. Coming back just 20 minutes after the semifinals of the 200 freestyle, she chased down Coughlin on the return lap to win with an American record of 58.85 seconds.
"I have dreamed of this moment, but I never thought it would come true at 17 years old," Franklin said. "Dreams do come true."
Coughlin started strong and was under world-record pace at the turn. But the 29-year-old couldn't hold off two teenagers. Eighteen-year-old Rachel Bootsma got past the 11-time Olympic medalist, as well, claiming the second Olympic spot in 59.49. Coughlin was third in 1 minute, 0.06 seconds.
In another final Wednesday, Matt Grevers captured the men's 100 backstroke with the fastest time in the world this year, and Nick Thoman claimed the second spot on the Olympic team. Also, Breeja Larson pulled off a huge upset in the 100 breaststroke, beating Rebecca Soni and world-record holder Jessica Hardy. Soni rallied to get the second spot on the team, but Hardy finished third — about a half-second too slow to earn a spot in London.
Katie Hoff is close to watching the London Olympics from her couch.
The 22-year-old swimmer who won five events at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials is doubtful to even make the team this time.
Hoff finished 20th in the 200-metre freestyle preliminaries Wednesday, missing a spot in the evening semifinals by 0.32 seconds. A day earlier, she failed to advance out of the 400 free prelims when her coach said she was sick.
"They told me I had a stomach virus or something like that, but I don't want to make excuses. It just wasn't there," she said.
"Just didn't feel like I had my normal pop. I haven't been that slow in really any prelim all year. I was trying to go in very positive. The fact I was able to eat, I was optimistic. I gave it everything I had. It's really all I can do."
In 2004, Hoff was the youngest U.S. athlete at the Athens Games. She competed in two events, and the enormity of the world stage got to her when she vomited on the deck before her first race.
Four years ago, Hoff was dubbed the female Michael Phelps after she won five events at trials. She went to the Beijing Olympics and settled for a silver and two bronze medals. She was fourth in two other events, including an American record in the 200 free that wasn't quite enough to get her on the podium.
Her only remaining event is the grueling 800 free Saturday, and she said she'll let Yetter decide if she'll swim it.