|By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. ON the first night of these Olympic Trials, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte produced one of the best head-to-head battles the sport has seen, with both men breaking the existing world record in the 400 individual medley. Ultimately, it was Phelps who prevailed, with Lochte just behind.
The sequel is set for Tuesday night.
Lochte and Phelps, racing in opposite semifinals, qualified first and second for the championship heat of the 200 freestyle. Lochte won the first semifinal in 1:45.61 as he burned through the last 50 meters. Phelps followed up by besting the field in the second semifinal, his trademark dolphin kick vaulting him off the final wall and to a time of 1:45.64.
The 200 freestyle in this country has reached ridiculous levels as it took 1:46.94 just to reach the championship final. Tomorrow, the six individuals who qualify for the Beijing Olympics will give the United States an overwhelming edge to claim the gold medal at the Games in the 800 free relay.
"I'm just getting a good feel for my stroke," Phelps said. "Tomorrow, I'm thinking about what I have to focus on. I have the butterfly tomorrow morning, and hopefully, I'll have a strong final then."
Qualifying in third was Peter Vanderkaay, the second-fastest man in the world last year. Vanderkaay, one of three Club Wolverine swimmers to reach the final in the event, was timed in 1:46.08 and was followed by David Walters (1:46.65) and Ricky Berens (1:46.77). The rest of the field includes Klete Keller (1:46.78), Danny Beal (1:46.89) and Erik Vendt (1:46.94).
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.
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Photo By: Peter H. Bick