Michael Phelps stayed on course to swim eight events at the London Games, pulling away for a dominating win in the 200m butterfly at the US Olympic trials on Thursday.
Phelps has locked up three individual events for London and has two more to go in Omaha. Combined with a likely spot on all three relays, the 26-year-old from Baltimore — already the most medaled Olympian ever — would have a chance to duplicate his record from the Beijing Games if he does not stumble over the next three days.
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 200m free after losing to him in the 400m individual medley (but still finishing second, earning an Olympic spot).
Phelps said he would have to go even faster in London to claim his third straight gold in the 200m fly, but he appears to be getting stronger every day.
The real race was for second place — and another spot on the Olympic team. Tyler Clary, who lost out to Phelps in the 400m individual medley, rallied from behind for a time of 1:55.12, edging Bobby Bollier’s touch of 1:55.79.
Phelps was not the only one building a busy Olympic schedule. His training partner, Allison Schmitt, was equally dominating in the 200m free. She broke her own US record with a time of 1:54.40, the best in the world this year. Already the winner in the 400m free, she eclipsed the national record set in the 2009 world championships at Rome.
Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin locked up another Olympic race, claiming the second 200m spot in 1:56.79. She rallied from fifth place at the first turn to take the runner-up position. Franklin had already won the 100m backstroke and looks poised to have another huge performance in London, after breaking through at last year’s worlds with five medals.
Dana Vollmer and Lauren Perdue finished third and fourth, assuring themselves of being in the pool for the 800m free relay. Shannon Vreeland (fifth) and Alyssa Anderson (sixth) also are likely to be taken to London as potential relay swimmers.
Caitlin Leverenz became a first-time Olympian with a victory in the 200m individual medley. She was dominating on the final two legs — breaststroke and freestyle — and pulled away to win in 2:10.22.
Ariana Kukors, who won gold in the event at the 2009 world championships and was third at last year’s worlds, rallied to claim a spot on her first Olympic team, as well. She touched second in 2:11.30, just 25-hundredths ahead of Elizabeth Pelton, who led the first two laps, but could not hang on.
Lochte did not have any finals on Thursday, and he passed on a chance to swim in the 100m free final yesterday because he did not want it to take away from his stronger events. Merely looking to strengthen his bid for another relay spot, Lochte tied for fifth-fastest in the semi-finals (48.91), good enough for a spot in the final if he had wanted it.
But Lochte had the 200m backstroke and 200m medley yesterday, and he is the defending world champion in both.