OMAHA, Neb. – Michael Phelps had the spotlight to himself at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on Wednesday, qualifying third-fastest in the 200-meter butterfly while rival Ryan Lochte took the morning off.
The world's top two swimmers won't be apart long. Phelps and Lochte are set for another showdown in the 200 freestyle final in the evening.
Phelps first had to get through the 200 fly prelims, and he moved on to the evening semifinal in a third-place tie with Thomas Luchsinger at 1 minute, 57.75 seconds. Phelps didn't speak with reporters after his race.
Bobby Bollier, who trains at Stanford, led the way in 1:56.69. Tyler Clary, who missed a spot on the U.S. team when he finished third behind Lochte and Phelps in the 400 individual medley, was second at 1:57.23.
"You just kind of put it behind you," Clary said of his earlier disappointment. "Everybody encounters failure at some point. It's just about how quickly you can get back up on your feet and moving in a positive direction. Thankfully, my family and my girlfriend Caroline are here. They were able to kind of get in my head and turn it around. That really helped a lot."
Clary said he had a fever last weekend, but didn't say anything because he didn't want to make excuses for his showing in Monday's 400 IM.
"I'd like to say I'm 100 percent but there's really no way of knowing," he said. "We'll see in tomorrow's final, if I make the dang final."
Phelps, who has yet to beat Lochte in two head-to-head matchups so far at trials, won't swim his 200 fly semifinal until after he and Lochte meet in the 200 free final, allowing both swimmers to come in rested.
Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin advanced to the semifinals of the 200 freestyle with the third-fastest prelim time of 1:58.62.
"Right now I still feel awesome and full of energy," she said.
Franklin will need some energy for Wednesday night, when she has the 200 free semis and then returns a short time later for the 100 backstroke final in which she was the top qualifier. Her time of 59.06 in the semis was less than a second off Gemma Spofforth's world record.
"Not thinking about tonight at all was a goal going into this morning," she said. "I knew if I was concerned about tonight, my semis and my finals that I probably wouldn't have done as well this morning. Just trying to take it one race at a time and going into that 200 free only thinking about that."
Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer, both already on the U.S. team for the London Games, were first and second.
Schmitt was fastest at 1:58.02 and Vollmer touched in 1:58.34. Also moving on to the evening semifinals was Elizabeth Beisel, who was 13th.
Katie Hoff is looking doubtful to make her third straight Olympics after finishing 20th. Her time of 2:00.58 was 0.32 seconds off the 16th and last spot for the semis. She failed to advance out of the 400 free prelims a day earlier.
"Just didn't feel like I had my normal pop," she said. "I haven't been that slow in really any prelim all year. I was trying to go in very positive. The fact I was able to eat, I was optimistic. I gave it everything I had. It's really all I can do."
Four years ago, Hoff won five events at trials and was dubbed the female Phelps.
Now her only remaining event is the 800 free on Saturday, and Hoff said she'll let coach Paul Yetter decide if she'll swim it.
"That was just if I made the 200, just to see, just for fun or a training swim," she said. "That's one, especially with how well those girls are swimming, realistically it's not really in the cards."
After feeling sick on Tuesday, Hoff said she was able to eat on Wednesday.
"They told me I had a stomach virus or something like that, but I don't want to make excuses," she said. "It just wasn't there."
Caitlin Leverenz and Beisel, already on the U.S. team in the 400 individual medley, were the top two qualifiers in the 200 IM. Leverenz was first at 2:12.38 and Beisel second at 2:13.26. Beisel beat Leverenz in the 400 IM on Monday.
Ariana Kukors, the 2009 world champion, was third at 2:13.58, followed by Elizabeth Pelton at 2:13.89.
Kukors' world record of 2:06.15 from that high-tech suit era still stands.
"I would love to go that time again," she said. "But I really do think suits helped my underwaters significantly. No matter how long I stay underwater, I don't know if I can ever be as fast as I was with that suit on. My fitness level is the best it's ever been."