Lochte moves on in 200 back at US trials

Associated Press
Dana Vollmer swims in the women's 100-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, Friday, June 29, 2012, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Ryan Lochte got his busy Friday under way by qualifying fastest in the 200-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Lochte powered off the final turn and won his heat by more than a body length in 1 minute, 57.24 seconds. He stopped to sign autographs for a couple of young girls as he walked off the pool deck.

Tyler Clary was second-quickest at 1:57.93, followed by 100 back champion Matt Grevers in 1:58.90. Nick Thoman, runner-up in the 100 back, moved on to the evening semifinal in fifth at 1:59.24.

USA Swimming said Grevers had scratched the semifinals of the 200 back. That will allow him to focus solely on the evening 100 freestyle final, instead of having to swim the 200 back semis first.

"I do know a double would hurt me and my 100 free would suffer if I did the 200 back right before," he said before his scratch was announced. "I've got to get back by Clary and Lochte to get there (to back final). That's going to be very hard."

On Thursday night, USA Swimming wrongly announced that Grevers had dropped out of the 100 free final; the group said Friday that he had not.

"After talking to my coaches, they convinced me the 100 free is the way to go. Just cruise that," Grevers said. "My actual goal was to get a fast enough 100 freestyle time to make me a solid pick in the relay. I want to do a relay swim. The 100 free individual, there might be a shot, but I don't think I can medal in it even if I do make it."

Lochte made his way to the warm down pool to prepare for his preliminary swim in the 200 individual medley, his third and last showdown with Michael Phelps at the trials.

Lochte has the afternoon to rest before returning in the evening for the semifinals of the 200 back, followed by the 200 IM semifinals.

"It's a difficult double, but it's not an impossible double," Clary said. "He's shown he's got the ability to be able to come to this meet, he doesn't really have to fully exert himself if he doesn't want to. That carries over to the other race if he's got a double that day."

Dana Vollmer led the way in the 100 freestyle preliminaries, with teenager Missy Franklin also advancing.

Vollmer was timed in 54.35 seconds for the two-lap sprint. Allison Schmitt, having one of her best meets ever, was second at 54.49. Vollmer is already on the U.S. team in an individual event, while Schimitt is going for her third individual event, which would tie her with her training partner Phelps for most on the team.

Jessica Hardy, who failed to qualify for the Olympic team in the 100 breaststroke, had the third-fastest time of 54.52. Texas A&M sophomore Breeja Larson upset Rebecca Soni to win the 100 breast, with Hardy third. Only the top two make the U.S. team for London.

"I never heard of her before. Ever," Hardy said about Larson. "But good for her. Now she's the gold-medal favorite."

Franklin was seventh in 54.78.

"Honestly, you have to go all out," Franklin said. "In the 100 free, there's such an incredible amount of people. It's so hard to make it back. You don't want to risk anything."

Franklin has already made her first Olympic team at 17 in the 100 back and 200 free.

"It's better than I could've asked for," she said. "I'm so excited. I'm still kind of on a high from my 100 back and 200 free. I'm just kind of riding that right now."

Natalie Coughlin, yet to secure a spot on her third Olympic team, finished ninth at 54.99. She will need to be faster in the evening semifinal to advance to the eight-woman final on Saturday.

Two-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce failed to make the semifinals in 18th, while 2008 Olympian Christine Magnuson tied for 22nd.

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