Ryan Lochte again got the better of Michael Phelps on Tuesday, but said his real 200m freestyle test against the 14-time Olympic gold medalist was yet to come at the US Olympic swimming trials.
Lochte edged Phelps by two-hundredths of a second in the semi-finals of the 200m free, which Phelps won four years ago at the Beijing Games.
Last year, Lochte beat Phelps in the event at the World Championships in Shanghai to stamp himself a contender to deny Phelps an Olympic repeat.
Swimming in the same semi-final heat, Lochte and Phelps both hit the final turn a fraction behind Conor Dwyer.
Both burst off the final wall, Lochte grabbing the victory in 1min 46.25 to Phelps’s 1:46.27. Dwyer was third in 1:47.38 as they led the way into the final ahead of Matt McLean — winner of the other semi in 1:47.40.
Lochte and Phelps will line up again in Wednesday’s final with the top two finishers punching their tickets to the London Games in the event.
Lochte downplayed the importance of Tuesday’s victory.
“That was a semi-final,” Lochte said. “It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter until the finals.”
But Lochte, who beat Phelps in the 400m medley on Monday to open the eight-day trials, said the final promised to be exciting.
“We definitely kicked it into gear the last 50. You know tomorrow is going to be a lot faster.”
Phelps, who has said he believes he has done enough to make up for slack training in the wake of his historic eight-gold haul in Beijing, said it was all about positioning — for Wednesday’s final and for London.
“I felt OK,” he said. “Tonight was really about trying to stay in the middle (lanes) of the pool for tomorrow. That was what I wanted to do.
“It’s going to be a tough race.”
Lochte was also in action on Tuesday morning in the 100m backstroke heats, posting the second-quickest time before deciding to scratch from the semi-finals in order to focus on the 200m free.
Lochte is gearing up for a multiple medal bid in London, but coach Gregg Troy said the schedule at the Olympics wouldn’t be conducive to a 200m free and 100m backstroke double.
Lochte said it was his decision to forego the 100m backstroke and in discussing it with Troy told him “I just want to get ready. I don’t want to have to worry about swimming an extra race.”
Apparently the strategy paid off. Lochte said he felt he had plenty in reserve for his next showdown with Phelps.
“That actually felt pretty good,” Lochte said. “I know I have a lot left, so we’ll see what happens.”