By John Lohn
OMAHA, Neb., July 3. WHEN they met at last year's World Championships in Melbourne, they provided one of the best races of the meet. Expect a similar outcome in the 200 backstroke from Ryan Lochte and Aaron Peirsol at these Trials. The men are the overwhelming favorites to lead the United States in Beijing. Michael Phelps announced Wednesday night that he was skipping the event.
Peirsol, the defending Olympic champion and former world-record holder, led the morning qualifying with an easy effort of 1:57.05. Peirsol, already the winner of the 100 back earlier in the week, has been taking a measured approach this week. Look for him to quicken tonight, then unload in the final with a world-record swim a distinct possibility.
"I just wanted to win the heat and get ready for tonight," Peirsol said. "Making the team is what means a lot. It is a stepping stone. I think that, eventually, I would like to get that record back, but first things first. You got to make the team to be able to do that. You don't make the team in the morning – so I just try to set up for the next race, and try to build into it."
Lochte continued his arduous schedule by grabbing the fourth position for the semifinals. With the 200 individual medley also today, Lochte did just enough to advance. He was timed in 1:58.25, a time that trailed the No. 2 seed of Nick Thoman (1:57.33) and the third-fastest morning effort of Tyler Clary, who went 1:57.60.
A finalist in the 100 back, Patrick Schirk was fifth after the prelims, going 1:58.66. He was followed by Rexford Tullius (1:58.71), Chris DeJong (1:58.80) and Cory Chitwood (1:59.39). The rest of the semifinal field includes David Cromwell (2:00.03), Doug Van Wie (2:00.21), Michael Wolfe (2:00.66), Matt Thompson (2:00.75), Ian Clark (2:00.83), Eugene Godsoe (2:00.97), Hongzhe Sun (2:01.01) and David Plummer (2:01.09).
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.