OMAHA: Michael Phelps limbered up for his 200m medley showdown with Ryan Lochte at the US Olympic swimming trials on Friday by booking a semi-final berth in the 100m butterfly.
Phelps, whose remarkable 18 Olympic gold medals include three 100m fly victories, was third in his heat in 51.87sec, the sixth-fastest time of the morning in an event topped by the 51.61 of Matthew Josa.
Lochte also made it through in the 100m fly, but scratched the semi-finals to focus on his individual medley duel with Phelps.
“I think it’s one of the greatest rivalries in sports,” Lochte said after qualifying first in the 200m IM ahead of Phelps.
Lochte, the world record-holder and world champion, and three-time Olympic gold medallist Phelps are hoping to add one last chapter to that rivalry in Rio.
World record-holder Katie Ledecky underscored her dominance of the 800m freestyle, winning her heat emphatically in 8:10.91. That’s the third-fastest time ever and gave Ledecky all 10 of the fastest times ever recorded in the event.
She was more than 10 seconds faster than Leah Smith, who won her heat in 8:21.64 to go into Saturday’s final as the second seed.
Ledecky, already booked to swim the 200m and 400m free in Rio, was due to drop it down in distance Friday night in the final of the 100m free, where she’s hoping to stake a claim to a relay berth.
“I don’t think I’ve done this before, 800 free prelim and big-time 100 free final. It’ll be fun, a little different,” the 19-year-old freestyle phenom said.
“The goal is to help out the relay as much as I can,” she said of the 100m free. “I’m not thinking individually for that — yet.”
In other finals Friday, Tyler Clary seeks a chance to defend the men’s 200m backstroke title he won in London and 100m breaststroke winner Lilly King will try to complete the double in the 200m.
America’s new wave and old guard were on display in the men’s 50m freestyle heats, with 19-year-old Caeleb Dressel toping the times in 21.76sec ahead of 35-year-old Anthony Ervin (21.80).
Dressel, a double freestyle sprint gold medalist at this year’s NCAA collegiate championships, is seeking a second Rio berth after finishing second to Nathan Adrian in the 100m free.
Ervin, who won 50m free gold at the 2000 Games, has a chance to add an individual event to his Rio program after earning relay consideration in the 100m free.
Missy Franklin, the quadruple gold medalist in London who has endured an erratic trials, got her quest for a 200m backstroke gold repeat off to a smooth start as she topped the qualifying times in 2:09.69.
Maya DiRado, headed to Rio after winning the 200m and 400m medleys, was second-fastest in 2:09.76.