Michael Phelps opened defense of his Olympic title in the 200-meter butterfly with the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the preliminaries Monday. He then advanced to the final by winning his semifinal heat, posting the fourth-best time of the semis.f
Phelps has yet to have the quickest time in the morning heats at the London Games four years after he won a record eight gold medals in Beijing.
He finished third in his first heat at 1 minute, 55.53 seconds, trailing Dinko Jukic of Austria and U.S. teammate Tyler Clary to the wall.
”I’m pretty happy with that swim,” Phelps said. ”That’s all I needed it to be.”
Phelps came back to clock 1:54.43 in winning his semifinal. That marked was bettered in the other semi by Japan’s Takeshi Masuda, South Africa’s Chad le Clos and China’s Yin Chen.
Phelps has won the 200 fly at the past two Olympics and set the world record at the 2009 world championships.
He was back in the water hours after swimming a solid second leg on the 4×100 freestyle relay that took silver after Ryan Lochte was overhauled by the French on the closing lap.
”Just getting last night sort of out of the way was something that I needed,” Phelps said. ”I guess I got to bed pretty late. We’re all falling asleep pretty late. We’re all excited.”
Phelps’ mother, Debbie, nodded her head slightly when she saw her son had safely advanced in the prelims. He was the slowest qualifier for the 400 individual medley final on Saturday, and his surprising fourth-place finish kept him off the medals podium.
”I have no idea what it was, but I don’t think it had anything to do with confidence,” he said. ”I felt I was ready to swim faster than that. It just didn’t happen.”