This time, Phelps bests rival Lochte at U.S. trials

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This time, Phelps bests rival Lochte at U.S. trials

OMAHA, Nebraska - Michael Phelps celebrated his 27th birthday by beating rival Ryan Lochte in their penultimate showdown before the London Olympics on Saturday.

For the third time this week, the pair battled each other stroke-for-stroke at the U.S. Olympic trials, this time in the 200-meter individual medley.

Lochte beat Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley on Monday, but Phelps avenged that loss when he got his hand on the wall first, stopping the clock at one minute 54.84 seconds.

Lochte, who had won the 200-meter backstroke final just 30 minutes before taking on the greatest Olympian of all time, was just 0.11 seconds behind, setting the stage for another epic duel in London when both men should be at their peak.

Phelps has already qualified for four events in London and looks certain to add a fifth after setting the fastest time in the semi-finals of the 100-meter butterfly.

With the addition of the three relays, he will swim the same eight events he did at Athens and Beijing.

Lochte also qualified for the 100-meter butterfly final after swimming three races in less than an hour Saturday.

The 27-year-old has already clinched his place in four events, but unlike Phelps, is not assured of a place in all three relays.

Teenage sensation Missy Franklin looks set to compete in seven events at her first Olympics after the 17-year-old finished runner-up in the 100-meter freestyle final and set the fastest qualifying time for Sunday’s 200-meter backstroke final.

Like Lochte, she was back in the pool within half an hour of her previous race and finished second in 54.15, behind Jessica Hardy (53.96), who booked her first trip to the Olympics after being forced to miss Beijing on a doping offense.

Hardy was suspended after testing positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials.

Natalie Coughlin sneaked onto the team for her third Olympics when she finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle final, securing a place in the relay after missing out in her individual events.

But Amanda Beard, who won her first gold as a 14-year-old in Atlanta in 1996, failed to qualify for a fifth Olympics when she could only manage fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke final behind world and Olympic champion Rebecca Soni.

Katie Hoff, who won five events at the 2008 U.S. trials but was unable to win in Beijing, failed in her last chance to make a third Olympics when she finished 13th in the women’s 800-meter freestyle after struggling all week with a virus.

“Obviously I wanted to do better but I gave it my best shot,” Hoff said.

The 800 heats also marked the end of a brief comeback for former Olympic champion and world record holder Janet Evans, 40.

Reuters

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