Olympic Trials 2012, Michael Phelps: Results, Highlights and Analysis

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Olympic Trials 2012, Michael Phelps: Results, Highlights and Analysis
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Michael Phelps' U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials ended Sunday with a victory in the men's 100-meter butterfly final.

With the win, Phelps qualifies for the same five individual events he swam in Beijing. Add three likely relay nods, and he could win eight medals for the third consecutive Olympiad.

So, in short, it was a good week for Phelps. He beat rival Ryan Lochte in three event finals and looks more and more like the superhuman specimen we saw in Beijing (and less and less like the disinterested fading legend we've seen the past three years).

For more on Phelps and the rest of Team USA's London-bound swimmers, check out B/R's Olympic page.

And if you're interested in reliving past glory, we'll keep our log of Phelps' Trials exploits posted below.

Enjoy.

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No athlete at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials carries as much weight on his or her shoulders as Michael Phelps.

The soon-to-be 27-year-old is in the final stages of preparation for his fourth Olympic appearance, and he believes the London 2012 Olympics will be his last (h/t CNN.com).

Can he hold off American rival Ryan Lochte, who is intent on emerging from Phelps' shadow (h/t the Associated Press, via The Detroit News)?

Keep your eyes here for every Phelps-related development during the eight-day trials in Omaha, Neb.

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QUICK UPDATE: Sunday, July 1

Micahel Phelps took on American rival Ryan Lochte yet again on Sunday night. As expected, their fourth finals meeting of the U.S. Olympic Trials didn't include the dramatics of the first three showdowns.

Phelps took care of business in an event he has owned for nearly a decade. The two-time defending 100 fly gold medalist took first place, registering a 2012 world-best 51.14.

Lochte, who turned some heads when he decided to chase an Olympic berth in the 100 fly, posted a third-place finish. He will not compete in the event at the London Games but did qualify for four individual events during trials in Omaha.

Runner-up Tyler McGill is bound for his first Olympic appearance after posting a 51.32, the second-fastest recorded time in the world this year.  

But of course, the story here is Phelps. Needing just three medals to break the all-time Olympic record, he has the opportunity to participate in eight events in London.

With those numbers, you have to like the swimming legend's odds to make history once again.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Sunday, July 1

Michael Phelps looks to cap his brilliant week with a flourish on Sunday in the men's 100-meter butterfly final.

That Ryan Lochte awaits him there is something of a surprise, but it does seem the rivals will clash once more before Omaha lets out.

And although it sounds juicy, don't expect all the fireworks we saw Saturday night in the 200 IM or 200 free. Phelps is the better, more seasoned swimmer in this event and should win with relative ease.

Lochte will be swimming to gauge his fitness and see if he can realistically add a fifth individual event to his Olympic program. Even if he makes the team at 100 fly, he isn't a lock to swim the event in London.

Phelps is the two-time defending Olympic champion at this distance and should be well-rested for Sunday's final. The combination of those two elements makes him a heavy favorite.

Assuming a victory, he'll leave Omaha with a chance to win eight Olympic medals for the third consecutive Olympiad.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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QUICK UPDATE: Saturday, June 30

The birthday boy just took the rubber match.

Michael Phelps, who turned 27 on Saturday, edged Ryan Lochte in a ridiculously close 200-meter individual medley final matchup. In the third finals showdown between America's elite duo, both swimmers finished the race faster than anyone else in the world this year.

Phelps, a two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the event, claimed first place in 1:54.84, nine-one hundredths of a second ahead of Lochte, who won the 200 backstroke final less than a half hour earlier. The two split victories in their pair of previous finals showdowns in Omaha, so Phelps takes a 2-1 edge to London,

The 200 IM finals was a two-man race for the final 100 meters. Third-place finisher Connor Dwyer was nearly four full seconds behind Lochte.

Lochte and Phelps have now each qualified for four individual events at the 2012 Olympics and you can expect more intensely hyped drama in London leading up to their future battles. When they next face one another, medals will be on the line.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Saturday, June 30

After a pseudo-off-day, Pehlps-Lochte mania shifts back to center stage with the final of the men's 200-meter individual medley.

Lochte beat Phelps in yesterday's event semifinal, though we should note that the same sequence transpired before Phelps' lone victory over Lochte in the 200 free.

The rivals split their first two event finals, giving tonight's race a rubber-match feel (with all the commensurate hype). At least for media purposes, the winner of this race likely heads to London as The Guy To Beat.

Outside the rivalry paradigm, Phelps has other work to do on Saturday. He'll swim preliminary and semifinals heats in the men's 100 fly, a race he's expected to win.

There's been some recent speculation that Lochte will also swim the 100 fly, perhaps laying the groundwork for one final clash come Sunday.

So by "outside the rivalry paradigm," I of course mean, "this story line will spread like an invasive plant species until it consumes everything."

I repeat:  Everything.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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QUICK RECAP: Friday, June 29

Less than an hour after leading the pack in the 200-meter backstroke semifinals, Ryan Lochte beat out Michael Phelps for first place in their 200 individual medley semifinal heat on Friday night. Lochte, the event's world-record holder, finished in 1:55.51, the fastest time clocked in the world this year.

It was the swimming superstars' fourth meeting in three events at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha. In all four matchups—three of which have been won by Lochte—they have swam side-by-side in neighboring lanes.

The pair of powerhouse performers surged ahead of the pack early and looked like men among boys. Both claimed about a body-length lead through 100 meters and built a remarkable cushion between them and the rest of the group by race's end.

Phelps finished second with a time of 1:56.66. Cody Miller, who took third place, touched the wall nearly five seconds later (2:01.63).

The result adds credence to the sentiment that the 200 IM Olympic gold medal will ultimately hang around the neck of either Phelps or Lochte in London. 

The 200 IM finals take place Saturday night.

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What to Watch For: Friday, June 29

After locking down his third individual Olympic bid with a Thursday night victory in the men's 200-meter butterfly final, Michael Phelps gets a breather on Friday.

Or at least what qualifies as a breather by turbocharged Phelps-ian standards.

The 14-time Olympic champion is scheduled to swim the preliminary and semifinal rounds of the 200 IM, opposite rival Ryan Lochte.

And...that's it!

No big finals. Relatively small doses of media hype. Kid stuff.

It's a different story for Lochte, who will have to tackle a second set of preliminary and semifinal heats in the men's 200 back.

Phelps had originally signed up for the 200 back and 100 free (finals scheduled for tonight) as insurance, but dropped both, as expected, after qualifying for the 400 IM and 200 free (h/t the Associated Press, via The Washington Post).

So while Phelps gets an easy Friday walk-through, his rival has to grit through a perilous double. That should play to Phelps' advantage when the two square off for the last time this week in Saturday's 200 IM final.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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Update: Thursday, June 28

In his signature event, Michael Phelps put on a signature performance. The four-time Olympian secured first place in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials men's 200-meter butterfly with a commanding display of his talents. 

Phelps, who has owned the world record in the 200 fly since 2001, surged ahead with a powerhouse finish in the final 50 meters to reach the wall at 1:53.65. That's the fastest time recorded this year in the event by any swimmer on the planet.

Davis Tarwater exploded out to an early lead in the race, just as he did last night in Phelps' semifinal group. Much like last night, the 28-year-old tapered off in the final 100 meters and ultimately settled for fourth place, more than three seconds behind Phelps. 

None of the competitors who jumped into the pool with Phelps on Thursday evening have ever been to an Olympics. Phelps is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the 200 fly and is now in prime position to chase after a three-peat.

His world-record time of 1:51.51 has stood for 11 years and no one Earth can conquer this particular race like Phelps. His eye-opening finish launched him about a body's length ahead of runner-up Tyler Clary, who finished in 1:55.12 and will join Phelps at the 2012 London Games.

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Update: Thursday, June 28

Word is in that Michael Phelps will not swim the 100-meter freestyle at U.S. Trials.

Phelps' name did not appear on the 100 free heat sheet in advance of today's preliminary round.

It's long been suspected that Phelps would drop at least one of the seven individual events he entered in Omaha, and the 100 free was a likely candidate. Phelps has never contested the event at an Olympic Games and his interest in it generally only extends as far as is necessary to secure a spot on the 4x100 free relay team.

Four years ago, Phelps swam in a 100 free preliminary heat before dropping out of the semifinal. Four years before that, according to Swimming World, Phelps didn't swim the event at Trials.

Both times, Phelps was named to the U.S. team's 4x100 freestyle relay squad, and it seems he and coach Bob Bowman have taken a similar tack this time around.

Phelps believes he's already done enough to earn a relay nod, both based on his peerless Olympic legacy and the attractive 48.50 he clocked earlier this year at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Now it's on Team USA brass to decide if his body of work will suffice.

With the 100 free off his plate, Phelps' lone swim on Thursday comes in the 200 fly final.

Many consider the 200 fly Phelps' signature event. It was the first race he contested at an Olympic Games and he's won it each of the past two Olympiads as well as each of the past three World Championships.

Phelps, as always, is a heavy favorite to qualify.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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Update: Wednesday, June 27

Moments after he beat Ryan Lochte in the men's 200-meter freestyle final, Michael Phelps returned to the pool for his 200 fly semi-final.

Looking a bit sluggish from the outset, Phelps ceded ground to Davis Tarwarter and Bobby Bollier over the first 150 meters and wasn't able to eliminate the gap despite a strong push at race's end.

One wouldn't label the performance Phelps-ian, but his third-place finish (in 1:56.42) was good enough to see him through to the event final on Thursday.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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Update: Wednesday, June 27

The monkey is officially off Michael Phelps' back.

Phelps' beat rival Ryan Lochte for the first time in three attempts at Omaha, taking first place in the men's 200-meter freestyle.

Lochte finished second, meaning both are eligible to swim the event in London.

It wasn't an easy win for Phelps, who needed a ferocious push down the final 25 meters to overtake Lochte and hold off the rest of a surprisingly competitive field.

Phelps finished in 1:45.70, beating Lochte to the wall by 0.05 seconds.

No telling what sort of psychology was at play in this race, but Phelps' certainly seemed to dig harder down the backstretch in this race than he did in his first two meetings with Lochte.

Perhaps he had grown tired of all the Ryan-Lochte-is-God talk. Or maybe he just swam a good race, like he's done so many times before.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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Update: Wednesday, June 27

"He was born to be a butterfly-er"

-- NBC'Rowdy Gaines on Michael Phelps as Phelps swam the 200-meter butterfly Wednesday evening

Even as he struggles to out-touch Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps never fails to leave subtle reminders of his greatness.

Such was the case Wednesday in the preliminary heat of the men's 200 fly, with Phelps swimming the most effortless, measured 1:57.75 you'll ever see.

Would it be hyperbole to call the round's third-fastest swim a piece of swimming art?

In Phelps' case, maybe not.

-- Avi Wolfman-Arent

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What To Watch For: Wednesday, June 27

Two one-hundedths of a second. That's what separated Michael Phelps and Ryan Locthe last night, with Lochte taking a 2-0 advantage in head-to-head Omaha races in the 200-meter freestyle.

And tonight's the final. Part three of the intrasquad rivalry should be just as good if not better than the first two. Phelps has a shot to make it 2-1 or risk sending sports analysts into a panic to produce a flurry of stories along the line, "The crown has been passed."

Prior to that palpitation-filled piece of water-treading, however, Phelps will swim a preliminary heat in the men's 200 butterfly—due to his top seed, he has the luxury of swimming in the very least heat, No. 14.

Nonetheless, all eyes will be on Phelps vs. Lochte Part III, which is in jeopardy of turning into Lochte vs. Phelps if Phelps doesn't erase that shutout score soon.

Or maybe we're all wrong.

Phelps, in reference to the Olympic Trials: "It's about getting spots on the team, that's the only thing."

Could he just be saving it all for London? That sort of simplistic-yet-philosophical quote really makes one think... 

- Gil Imber

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Quick Wrap: Tuesday, June 26

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Swimming in the same semifinal heat in the 200-meter freestyle, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps finished first and second, respectively, and will square off again tomorrow in the final.

Their times couldn't have been much closer, either: Lochte won in 1 minute, 46.25 seconds, and Phelps touched the final wall at 1:46.27.

Tomorrow morning, before he tries to qualify for London a second time in the evening, Phelps is scheduled to swim in the 200 fly heats.

 --Liviu Bird

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What To Watch For: Tuesday, June 26

One month shy of the 2012 Games, the most intriguing storyline for Team USA has to be Phelps' burgeoning rivalry with Lochte. It appears that the world's biggest threat to Phelps' dominance is also donning the red, white and blue.

After last night's outcome in the men's 400-meter individual medley final, things have grown even more interesting for tonight's main event—the 200 freestyle.

Lochte and Phelps are once again locked in a "mano-y-mano" showdown for swimming supremacy. How Phelps reacts to his second-place finish in the 400 IM should provide a look at the state of his present mentality and physical conditioning.

Sure, he qualified for another Olympic berth in the 400 with an impressive time of 4:07.89, but at this point in his career, anything but first place seems like an affront on his recent reign.

Lochte, who won the 400 IM in 4:07.06, still plays the underdog with nothing to lose. It appears to be a role he relishes.

"The first race is always the hardest," Lochte told Karen Crouse of The New York Times. "I can take a deep breath now and relax and whatever happens, happens.

"I'm just going to go out and have fun now."

Expect Phelps' attitude to be far different, even if doesn't outwardly display it. He can hear the whispers, and heck, he may even feel Lochte breathing down his neck.

Tonight, he has a chance to halt the talk, at least for the time being. Lochte versus Phelps, Round 2, could tell us a lot about where this rivalry is headed.

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Quick Wrap: Monday, June 25

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Phelps suffered a narrow defeat in his first showdown against Lochte, who edged all competitors in the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:07.06—the fastest time recorded in the world this year.

Phelps placed second with a time of 4:07.89 to earn Olympic qualification.

Unquestionably the highlight of the opening day of U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, the 400 IM featured the first of potentially five matchups between two men who seem to be vying for the title of "Greatest Swimmer on Earth."

Phelps has nothing to be ashamed of about his finish in the race. It featured the same explosiveness and speed we've come to expect from the three-time Olympian.

However, it was Lochte's performance that presents a legitimate question.

Are we on the verge of entering a new reality in American swimming, one in which Phelps is no longer the alpha dog?

We'll have plenty of time to dissect that question over the next week, but give Round 1 to Lochte.

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