Lochte, Phelps on track for 200m medley showdown
Michael Phelps celebrated his 31st birthday Thursday by easing into the semi-finals of the 200m individual medley at the US Olympic swimming trials.
Phelps, who booked a milestone after fifth Olympic appearance with a win in the 200m butterfly on Wednesday night, admitted he was feeling the after-effects less than 24 hours later.
“I feel older,” the 18-time Olympic gold medalist said. “My muscles aren’t the same. They hurt a lot worse this morning.”
Phelps said inadequate warm-down and lack of sleep were really the most likely culprits, but he was satisfied with a 1min 58.95sec that made him the second-fastest qualifier behind old foe Ryan Lochte.
Lochte, nursing a groin injury suffered in the 400m medley heats on Sunday, clocked 1:58.05, even using a modified breaststroke kick.
“I completely changed my breaststroke,” Lochte said. “I can’t do my normal kick that I usually do it hurts so bad. But I’ll take 1:58 for the morning.
“I’ve just got to get a massage, rub it out it’ll hopefully be better tonight.”
Phelps and Lochte are on course to write the final chapter of a rivalry spanning more than a decade.
Lochte, 31, is the 200m medley world record-holder and 2015 world champion.
But he took silver behind Phelps in the event in the 2004 and 2012 Olympics and settled for bronze in 2008 when the 200m IM was among Phelps’s glittering haul of eight golds in Beijing.
Lochte’s effort to set up a fourth Olympic campaign has been hindered by his injury. So far he has qualified for only relay consideration and he scratched the 200m backstroke heats on Thursday to focus on the medley.
Phelps, meanwhile, is coming into the meat of his trials with the 200m medley final beckoning on Friday, the same day he contests the 100m butterfly heats and semis.
“This is the grind time for me over the next couple of days,” Phelps said.
Adrian eyes 100m free repeat
In other heats on Thursday, Abby Weitzeil led the way into the semi-finals of the women’s 100m freestyle, her 53.58sec vaulting her into the top 10 in the world rankings.
The 19-year-old grabbed the top spot ahead of 30-year-old Amanda Weir, a three-time Olympic medalist who won her heat in 53.76.
Dana Vollmer, already Rio-bound in the 100m butterfly, was third-fastest in 53.80 ahead of Simone Manuel, 100m fly winner Kelsi Worrell and Katie Ledecky.
Ledecky, already qualified in the 200m and 400m free and all but a lock in the 800m free, is tackling the two-lap race with an eye toward the 4x100m free relay in Rio.
The men’s 100m free highlighted three finals on tap for Thursday night, with 2012 gold medalist Nathan Adrian the top seed ahead of 21-year-old Ryan Held and 19-year-old collegiate standout Caeleb Dressel.
Kevin Cordes will shoot for a breaststroke double in the 200m and world championships silver medalist Cammile Adams tackles the women’s 200m butterfly.
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