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.”
Amanda Beard, trying to make her fifth Olympic team at 30, was fifth in 2:27.07.
“It’s exciting, so you want to go out there and put down a good time,” she said. “You don’t want to use too much energy. I just wanted to feel my stroke out, have fun and see what my competition looks like.”
Megan Jendrick, the 2000 Olympic champion in the 100 breast, finished 38th.
Dana Vollmer led the way in the 100 freestyle prelims, with teenager Missy Franklin also advancing.
Vollmer was timed in 54.35 seconds for the two-lap sprint. Allison Schmitt, having one of her best meets ever, was second at 54.49. Vollmer is already on the U.S. team in an individual event, while Schimitt is going for her third individual event, which would tie her with her training partner Phelps for most on the team.
Jessica Hardy, who failed to qualify for the Olympic team in the 100 breaststroke, had the third-fastest time of 54.52. Texas A&M sophomore Breeja Larson upset Soni to win the 100 breast, with Hardy third. Only the top two make the U.S. team for London.
“I never heard of her before. Ever,” Hardy said about Larson. “But good for her. Now she’s the gold-medal favorite.”
Franklin was seventh in 54.78.
“Honestly, you have to go all out,” Franklin said. “In the 100 free, there’s such an incredible amount of people. It’s so hard to make it back. You don’t want to risk anything.”
Franklin has already made her first Olympic team at 17 in the 100 back and 200 free.
“It’s better than I could’ve asked for,” she said. “I’m so excited. I’m still kind of on a high from my 100 back and 200 free. I’m just kind of riding that right now.”
Natalie Coughlin, yet to secure a spot on her third Olympic team, finished ninth at 54.99. She will need to be faster in the evening semifinal to advance to the eight-woman final on Saturday.
Two-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce failed to make the semifinals in 18th, while 2008 Olympian Christine Magnuson tied for 22nd.