OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) – Michael 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 US Olympic trials on Thursday.
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 26year-old from Baltimore already the most medaled Olympian ever would have a chance to duplicate his record from the Beijing Games if he doesn’t stumble over the next three days.
“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.
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 said he’ll have to go even faster in London to claim his third straight gold in the 200 fly. But he appears to be getting stronger every day.
“It’s not a good enough time to win a gold medal, but I think I’m OK with it,” he said. “Going into the last wall. I didn’t want to have any close ones, so I tried to stay under as long as I could. Today was the best my stroke has felt throughout the whole meet.”
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 Bobby Bollier’s touch of 1:55.79.
Clary pumped his right fist and pounded the water when he saw a “2” beside his name on the scoreboard. When Phelps got out of the water, he walked side-byside with Clary along the deck, patting the first-time Olympian on the back of the head.
“When I got out I said to him, `It’s pretty cool to make your first one,’ and he goes, `You have no idea how good that feels,”’ Phelps said. “It was definitely cool to watch his excitement, and swimming with him for a couple of years of school, you see how much of a hard worker he is. It’s cool to see everything pay off.”
Clary was the silver medalist behind Lochte in the 400 IM at last year’s world championships, but Phelps restored the event to his program and Clary wound up third at the trials – out of the Olympics.
“It was amazing,’’ Clary said. “I can’t even put into words how the end of that race felt, not only the pain in the last 20 meters but just the complete and total turnaround.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,’’ he added
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.’’