OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Phelps is heading back to the Olympics.
So is Missy Franklin.
Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, held off a stiff challenge from Tom Shields and outpaced Texas’ Jack Conger to win the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. swimming trials Wednesday night. Phelps whipped around to look at his time — a bit slower than he probably would’ve liked — and held up all five fingers on his right hand.
Yep, it’s Olympics No. 5, making him the first male swimmer to compete in that many Summer Games.
“I think that means the most tonight,” Phelps said, pausing to compose himself. “Just being able to finish how I want to is so important to me. Getting on this team is what I wanted to do.”
Franklin, meanwhile, turned in one of the gutsiest performances of her career to earn a spot for Rio in the 200 freestyle. One night after she struggled to seventh in the 100 backstroke — an event she won four years ago in London — there was plenty of speculation that she’d be hard-pressed to qualify for any individual events at these games.
Franklin herself sounded as though she’d be happy just getting on the team as a relay swimmer.
Turns out, she’ll be busier than that in Brazil.
While Katie Ledecky romped to victory in the 200 free, earning a second individual event at the Olympics, Franklin rallied over the second half of the race to claim the runner-up spot.
Ledecky touched in 1:54.88, following up her easy victory in the 400 free.
Franklin’s coach, Todd Schmitz, pumped his fists and charged down the steps of the arena to congratulate his bubbly swimmer, one of the biggest stars of the London Games.
She finally had reason to smile.
“Last night was really tough and coming back from that, I was telling myself, ‘I’m not done fighting. I’m not done with believing in myself,’” Franklin said. “That’s probably the most proud race I’ve ever swam in my entire career, coming back from such a loss last night and telling myself that I still have it in me to do whatever I believe I can do.”
Franklin touched in 1:56.18, edging out Leah Smith by just under a half-second. Allison Schmitt, the defending gold medalist, settled for fourth but that will at least be good enough to get another star from the London Games on the team as a relay swimmer.
Maya DiRado qualified for her second individual event by taking the 200-meter individual medley in 2:09.54. Melanie Margalis earned the second spot at 2:10.11. Texas senior Madisyn Cox was fourth, touching the wall in 2:11.24.
Phelps, who retired after the last Olympics but soon reversed his decision, took the 200 fly in 1:54.84 — far off the world record of 1:51.51 he set at the 2009 world championships while wearing one of the high-tech suits that have since been banned.
Shields wasn’t far behind, finishing in 1:55.81 and Conger placed third at 1:56.45. Conger held fourth place through 100 meters then dropped to eighth at the 150 meter mark. He rallied in the final 50 meters, but came up short of representing the U.S. in the 200. Conger will be heading to Rio after qualifying for the 4×200 freestyle relay on Tuesday night, along with Texas teammates Townley Haas and Clark Smith. Fellow Longhorn Will Lincon advanced to the finals of the 200 breaststroke after placing second in his heat and third overall at 2:09.08.
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