GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Michael Phelps overhauled U.S. teammate Ryan Lochte late in their preliminary heat Sunday, qualifying for the 200 medley final at the Pan Pacific championships at the expense of his friend and long-time rival.
With only two swimmers per country eligible for the A final, Phelps and Lochte — swimming in adjacent lanes — needed to beat the 1 minute, 58.70 that Tyler Clary clocked in the previous heat.
Pulling the most out of his last strokes, Phelps just overhauled Lochte to finish in 1:58.95. Lochte, who holds the world record and who beat Phelps at the U.S. nationals earlier this month, finished in 1:59.09. He can still qualify for the U.S. world championships team depending on times in the B final. Kosuke Hagino led qualifiers in 1:57.61, ahead of Japan teammate Daiya Seto and Clary.
Phelps, who retired after the London Olympics as the most decorated swimmer of all time, made a comeback to competition in April and has been ticking off the milestones ever since.
His first aim was to make the U.S. team for the Pan Pacs. Then his aim was to qualify for the world championships — he has done that, too. He picked up a gold medal in the 100 butterfly on Saturday night, edging Lochte, and also won a gold medal in the 4x200 relay and a silver in the 4x100.
Spots on the U.S. team for the worlds are decided on performances at the nationals and the Pan Pacs, meaning there was extra motivation in the preliminaries.
"This morning was kind of wild. It was supposed to be Ryan, Tyler and myself all in the same heat, then they had a re-seed," Phelps said. "It was kind of frustrating not to be able to gauge how fast we were going. I just wanted to get my hand on the wall first ... happy to win that heat."
The 29-year-old Phelps isn't the only veteran on the comeback. Anthony Ervin, the 33-year-old sprinter who won the 50 freestyle gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, led qualifiers in the 50 in 21.75 seconds, edging U.S. teammate Nathan Adrian's time by one-hundredth of a second. They were the only two to go sub-22 seconds. Brazilians Bruno Fratus and Marcelo Chierighini were third and fourth.
Americans also qualified fastest in the 200 breaststroke (Nicolas Fink and Kevin Cordes) and in the women's 200 medley (Maya Dirado and Caitlin Leverenz).
Australians went 1-2-3 in the women's 50 free, with sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell qualifying for the final. Simone Manuel, a bronze medalist in the 100, and Ivy Martin qualified for the final for the U.S.
Japanese women Rie Kaneto and Kanako Watanabe were fastest qualifiers for the 200 breaststroke, followed by Canada's Kierra Smith.
Shogo Takeda got more than he bargained for in the timed finals of the 800 freestyle when he was stopped in the third lap due to a technical timing fault. He returned at the end of the morning program and, swimming alone, completed the 800 in 8:01.53, smiling wryly as he left the pool for the second time.