- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2012

OMAHA, Neb. — Ryan Lochte got his busy Friday under way by qualifying fastest in the 200-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials. He returned a short time later and swam in the 200 individual medley heats, advancing with Michael Phelps to their third and last showdown.

Lochte powered off the final turn in the 200 back and won his heat by more than a body length in 1 minute, 57.24 seconds. He stopped to sign autographs for a couple of young girls as he walked off the pool deck.

He came back and qualified fourth-quickest in the 200 IM, where he’s the world champion, having beaten Phelps in the race at last year’s world meet in Shanghai.

“The 200 back is probably one of the hardest events known to swimming,” Lochte said. “It just takes all your legs out of you. Being able to come up and step up on the blocks and race like Michael Phelps, it’s definitely a challenge, but I’m up for it.”

Conor Dwyer, already on the Olympic team, led the way in 1:59.11. Phelps was second-fastest in 1:59.27. Austin Surhoff, the son of former major league baseball player B.J. Surhoff, was third in 1:59.65.

Also reaching the semifinals was Olympian Peter Vanderkaay in fifth.

Lochte has the afternoon to rest before returning in the evening for the semifinals of the 200 back, followed by the 200 IM semifinals.

“It’s a difficult double, but it’s not an impossible double,” Clary said. “He’s shown he’s got the ability to be able to come to this meet, he doesn’t really have to fully exert himself if he doesn’t want to. That carries over to the other race if he’s got a double that day.”

In the 200 back, Tyler Clary was second-quickest at 1:57.93, followed by 100 back champion Matt Grevers in 1:58.90. Nick Thoman, runner-up in the 100 back, moved on to the evening semifinal in fifth at 1:59.24.

USA Swimming said Grevers had scratched the semifinals of the 200 back. That will allow him to focus solely on the evening 100 freestyle final, instead of having to swim the 200 back semis first.

“I do know a double would hurt me and my 100 free would suffer if I did the 200 back right before,” he said before his scratch was announced. “I’ve got to get back by Clary and Lochte to get there (to back final). That’s going to be very hard.”

On Thursday night, USA Swimming wrongly announced that Grevers had dropped out of the 100 free final; the group said Friday that he had not.

“After talking to my coaches, they convinced me the 100 free is the way to go. Just cruise that,” Grevers said. “My actual goal was to get a fast enough 100 freestyle time to make me a solid pick in the relay. I want to do a relay swim. The 100 free individual, there might be a shot, but I don’t think I can medal in it even if I do make it.”

Defending Olympic champion Rebecca Soni easily advanced in the 200 breast at 2:23.11. Micah Lawrence was second in 2:24.95, and Andrea Kropp third at 2:25.77.

“After so much sprinting with the 100, I wanted get nice feel for the 200 again,” Soni said. “Just kept calm and smooth and it felt really good, really happy with that time.”

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