OMAHA, Neb. — After a couple of epic duels with his biggest rival, Michael Phelps made this one look easy.
Phelps stayed on course to swim eight events at the London Games, pulling away for a dominating win in the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. Olympic trials on Thursday night.
Phelps has locked up three individual events for London and he’s got two more to go in Omaha. Combined with a likely spot on all three relays, the 26-year-old from Baltimore – already the winningest Olympian ever – would have a chance to duplicate his record from the Beijing Games if he doesn’t stumble over the last four days of the trials.
“The last 25 meters are pretty painful,” Phelps said. “I just wanted to get to the wall and secure another spot on the team.”
Davis Tarwater led at the first and second turns, but there was never any doubt about Phelps pulling ahead in his signature stroke. He surged to the front on the third leg, his body slinking through the water like a dolphin, and was a body-length ahead of the field when he touched in 1 minute, 53.65 seconds.
The real race was for second place –and another spot on the Olympic team. Tyler Clary, who lost out to Phelps in the 400 individual medley, rallied from behind for a time of 1:55.12, edging Bouiller’s touch of 1:55.79.
Phelps had a much easier time than his first two events at Omaha, when he was going against Ryan Lochte. Phelps edged out Lochte in the 200 free after losing to him in the 400 individual medley (but still finishing second, earning an Olympic spot).
Phelps isn’t the only one building a busy Olympic schedule. His training partner, Allison Schmitt, was equally dominating in the 200 free. She broke her own American record with a time of 1:54.40, the best in the world this year. Already the winner in the 400 free, she eclipsed the national record set in the 2009 world championships at Rome.
“I didn’t feel like I was on my record pace, but I could hear the crowd,” Schmitt said. “And when I touched and saw the flames go off I was pretty excited before I even looked up and saw the time.”
Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin locked up another Olympic race, claiming the second 200 spot in 1:56.79. She rallied from fifth place at the first turn to take the runner-up position. Franklin already won the 100 backstroke and looks poised to have another huge performance in London, after breaking through at last year’s worlds with five medals.
Dana Vollmer and Lauren Perdue finished third and fourth, assuring themselves of being in the pool for the 800 free relay. Shannon Vreeland (fifth) and Alyssa Anderson (sixth) also are likely to be taken to London as potential relay swimmers.