OMAHA, Neb. — Longtime rivals Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps set up their lone showdown at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials by qualifying first and second in the 200-meter individual medley Thursday.
Lochte had the top time of 1 minute, 58.05 seconds in the preliminaries. He emerged from the pool limping as a result of the groin injury he suffered Sunday on the first day of trials. It has hampered his performances throughout the week. He has been getting treatment and tweaking the way he swims to compensate.
"I felt it on the first kick of breaststroke," Lochte said. "I’ve just got to get a massage, rub it out and hopefully I’ll be better."
Phelps was second fastest in 1:58.95 on his 31st birthday. His 7-week-old son, Boomer, sat on his mother’s lap in the stands during his heat.
"I feel older," he said. "My muscles aren’t the same. They hurt a lot worse this morning."
Lochte and Phelps advanced to the 16-man evening semifinals, along with Austin Surhoff, the son of former major league baseball player B.J. Surhoff. He was fifth fastest in 2:00.26. Also moving on was Michael Andrew, a 17-year-old who has already turned pro. He finished third in Phelps’ heat and ninth overall.
Lochte is already on the team as a relay swimmer based on his fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle. He wants to swim an individual event in Rio, and the 200 IM represents his last — and best — chance after he was third in the 400 IM, one spot out of a berth.
The 31-year-old dropped out of the 200 backstroke on Thursday to focus on the 200 IM.
"It was kind of hard watching it just because I love that event, but I did what’s best for me," Lochte said.
Phelps made his record fifth Olympic team by winning the 200 butterfly Wednesday.
"I didn’t really sleep last night. I was wide awake at like 5 (a.m.)," he said. "I knew (coach) Bob (Bowman) was awake, so I started firing texts off to him, asking him questions. He pretty much just said, `Shut up and get ready for this morning,’ so I went back to sleep for a few hours."
Four years ago in London, Phelps won gold and Lochte took silver in the 200 IM. Lochte won the event at last year’s world championships in Russia, where Phelps couldn’t compete while serving a suspension from USA Swimming after his second drunken driving arrest.
In other preliminaries, Jacob Pebley and defending Olympic champion Tyler Clary had the two fastest times in the 200 backstroke heats. Pebley was timed in 1:56.29 and Clary went 1:56.85 to make the evening semifinals. Ryan Murphy, the 100 back winner at trials, was third quickest in 1:57.35.
On the women’s side, teenager Abbey Weitzeil and 30-year-old Olympic veteran Amanda Weir were the two fastest in the 100 freestyle featuring a loaded field. Weitzeil qualified first in 53.58 seconds and Weir was second in 53.76.
Dana Vollmer was third quickest in 53.80 and Simone Manuel was fourth in 53.84.
Also advancing to the semifinals were Kelsi Worrell, Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal, Missy Franklin, Olivia Smoliga, Natalie Coughlin and Allison Schmitt.
In the 200 breaststroke, Micah Lawrence had the fastest time of 2:26.27. Breeja Larson was sixth quickest in pursuit of her second straight Olympic team.