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OMAHA, Nebraska, June 27. IN their third head-to-head swim, and second in finals, Michael Phelps fought back against rival Ryan Lochte to claim victory in the men's 200 free at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. The amount of superlatives reached in the victory, however, are daunting.
First, the swim, Phelps edged Lochte, 1:45.70 to 1:45.75, the two fastest textile times ever in Trials history. Phelps owned the previous time with a 1:46.27 with his 2004 victory in Long Beach. Phelps has been just a bit faster this year with a season-best 1:45.69, which ranks him second in the world behind only Yannick Agnel (1:44.42).
The finish gave Phelps and Lochte another Olympic swim, while the win also gave Phelps a threepeat in the 200 free. Phelps previously won the event in 2004 (1:46.27) and 2008 (1:44.10). He joined only two other men to have accomplished three consecutive Trials victories. Gary Hall Jr. was the first with a trifecta in the 50 free in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Meanwhile, Brendan Hansen joined the party this week with a 100 breast triple in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Phelps, who already owns the record for most Trials titles, became the first to double digits with 10. He entered the meet with nine wins to his name, having won the 200 fly, 200 free, 200 IM and 400 IM in 2004 and the 100 fly, 200 fly, 200 free, 200 IM and 400 IM in 2008.
The .05-second discrepancy nearly broke the record for the closest Trials final in the men's 200 free in history. Troy Dalbey owns that mark with a .02-second win over Matt Biondi, 1:48.35 to 1:48.37, back in 1988.
Lochte will have plenty more shots at Phelps this week, and still leads 2-1 in the direct head-to-head swims, but 1-1 in finals.
Ricky Berens earned a relay spot with a third-place 1:46.56 to join the Olympic team again. Berens has been a stalwart on the men's 800 free relay squad, including an Olympic gold medal and a world title in relay duty. Lake Forest's Conor Dwyer is the fourth man into the relay with a 1:46.64, having already made the squad in the men's 400 free with a second-place finish behind Peter Vanderkaay.
Matt McLean (1:46.78) and Charlie Houchin (1:46.88) are in the alternate spots for relay competition, while Davis Tarwater (1:47.02) and Michael Klueh (1:48.29) missed out.