Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte look on after they competed in… (Jamie Squire, Getty Images )
OMAHA, NEB. — If Michael Phelps is going to come in second to Ryan Lochte, as he did again Tuesday night, he may find some comfort in the whisper of this particular margin: the Baltimore swimmer finished .02 seconds behind his rival in their semifinal heat in the 200-meter freestyle.
The two, who are battling for swimming supremacy at the Olympic qualifying trials , faceoff in the finals Wednesday night that will decide which two swimmers will go on to compete in the event in London.
"At this point right now, it's about getting spots on the team," said Phelps after the heat. "The most important thing for me is to try to secure a spot, and then from here I have three to four weeks to prepare myself and get some extra training."
The final 50 meters had the crowd at CenturyLink Center roaring, as they watched the much vaunted rivalry between the two swimmers play out before them. Either looked to be in position to touch the wall first, but the clock would show Lochte hitting it at 1:46.25 , followed by Phelps at 1.46:27.
"Definitely we kicked it in gear the last 50, me and him," Lochte said . "You know [Wednesday] night it's going to be a lot faster."
The race came just 24 hours after their duel in the 400-meter individual medley, won by Lochte although both secured Olympic berths.
Lochte initially faced a double swim on Tuesday, or quadruple counting the morning heats, racing first in the 200-free and then the 100-meter backstroke. But after swimming preliminaries for both, coming in first in the 200-free and second in the 100-back, he scratched the latter.
"I just wanted to get ready for the 200 free and I don't want to worry about swimming more than I have to," Lochte said.
"This isn't about how many we can swim, but how many we can swim really well," his coach Gregg Troy said.
Allison Schmitt, who trains with Phelps at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, won the 400-meter freestyle and with Chloe Sutton punched their tickets to London. Gillian Ryan, also of NBAC came in fourth in the event.
Dana Vollmer and Claire Donahue qualified for the Olympics in the women's 100-meter butterfly, and Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau qualified in the 100-meter backstroke.
Franklin makes her debut
Tuesday brought the debut of Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old phenom from Colorado, who swam the fastest 100-meter backstroke to win top seed in the evening finals, over veteran Natalie Coughlin, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in the event. Coughlin was fourth after preliminaries, and also swam in the women's 100-meter butterfly finals Tuesday night.
Warm applause greeted Janet Evans, 40, as she returned to the trials after a 16-year absence. "It was so sweet," she said after placing a 80th in the preliminaries for the 400-meter freestyle. Evans, the great distance swimmer, said she hopes "to regroup and do better in my 800" free. Preliminaries for that race are Saturday, followed by finals on Sunday. ...
Rounding up the day for Maryland swimmers
NBAC's Annie Zhu made the semifinals in the 100-meter breast, finishing 11th after preliminaries in a particularly tough field that included Rebecca Soni, Jessica Hardy and veteran Amanda Beard. Navy's Laura Gorinski didn't advance to semifinals.
Swimming in the preliminaries but not advancing: Terps Virginia Glover and Ann Fittin and NBAC's Felicia Lee in the women's 100-meter back; Navy's Kennedy Trotter and NBAC's Chris Brady in the men's 100 back; Terp John Hauser and NBAC's Drew Cosgarea and Austin Surhoff in the men's 200-meter freestyle; NBAC's Natalie Beale, Willa Wang and Camryne Morris and Chelsea Chenault in the women's 400-meter free.
Chelsea Chenault's affiliation was misidentified in a previous version of this article. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.