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Phelps: Back To Beijing Bonanza In 51.14

Jul 1, 2012  - Craig Lord

US Olympic Trials, Omaha, Day 7:

Men's 100m butterfly

Michael Phelps had a "pretty crappy first 50 … and a terrible finish" but in 51.14 - in his last Olympic qualification race ever and possibly his last race ever in the United States - he extended his lead at the helm of the world rankings and got his hand to the wall first to complete an eight-event programme that matches precisely the Beijing golden bonanza of 2008.

Out in 24.30, Phelps was 6th at the turn, Tim Phillips leading on 23.62 and even Ryan Lochte ahead of him on 24.21 in fifth out on the wing in lane 1. Slowly but surely Phelps inched back into contention on the way home, his stroke rate falling well for him into the wall compared to that of Tyler McGill, who looked like he might cause upset. 

It wasn't to be but McGill clocked 51.32 for the second US berth, locking Lochte out in third in what was for him, an amazing 51.65. For Lochte that means: 200m free, 200m back, 200, 400IM and a possible two relays for six in total. 

Phelps was not happy, "but it's done", he said. "I counted the strokes on the first length. It was 18, its usually 16. I don't know what happened there."

Summing up a fine week at trials with a full taper ahead of him, Phelps said: "It shows I can do a [multiple-event] programme  at high level again. I struggled to do even one event in the last couple of years at this level."

Gregg Troy, coach to Lochte, indicated that had his charge finished top two in the race, he may have declined the berth. A sixth day of the Games programme with 100m 'fly heats, the final of the 200 back and 200IM and then  the semi of the 100 'fly was an ask too far. "It might just take a little something out of the medley if the 'fly was there," said Troy nodding to the clash with Phelps.

The sprint butterfly - Lochte's first in major competition - provided a glimpse of the future. "His body will not be able to stand the pounding needed for the 400 medley. [The 100m 'fly] is where the future is." The coach revealed that Lochte, like Phelps, had wanted to quit the 400IM after Beijing. Troy persuaded him that with the 2008 champion gone, the margin to the next best was big, the chances of success still strong, "the path open".

In London, Lochte will be sharper. Improvements to make included "sloppy" turns, better walls "his legs aren't very sharp yet" and the "country club style" finishes would have to go.