|Ryan Lochte continues to perfect his stroke and his out-of-the-pool pose. (US Presswire)|
The first major step toward setting the stage for London's biggest water rivalry was confirmed Monday night.
American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps -- the two guys with as much interest in their performance of any athlete, save maybe Usain Bolt -- qualified for the first of what will be multiple races. Lochte cruised to a 400-meter individual medley first-place finish, touching the wall in 4:07.06. Phelps swam second with a 4:07.89. Upstart American swimmer of the future, 23-year-old Tyler Clary, couldn't close in on his rivals/American teammates. Clary touched in 4:09.92, which means he won't get to swim in the 400 IM in London.
Phelps' Olympic qualification officially means he becomes the first American male swimmer to make four Olympic teams.
“The biggest thing and the hardest thing for us is coming to the trials and making the teams,” Phelps told NBC, adding he absolutely intends to swim the 400 IM in London. Ever since Phelps said he was shooting for 10 medals this year, he's had doubters about whether he could intended to/could actually pull off the feat.
“Ryan knows, just like I do, the race that counts starts in a couple weeks,” Phelps said.
Lochte win was no surprise. In many people's minds, he's now seen as the overall best swimmer the U.S. puts in the pool. This was the first showcase of how Lochte may have or may be usurping his legendary teammate and rival.
“The big picture is the U.S. trying to take over the world in a couple of weeks,” Lochte told NBC. “We have the two best swimmers right now, and we're going to go out there and show the world something.”
Lochte and Phelps weren't the only ones locking in Olympic dates Monday night in Omaha. The men's 400-meter freestyle had the night's best finish. Favorite Peter Vanderkaay took first (3:47.67), edging out Conor Dwyer (3:47.83), while third, fourth and fifth all touched within 1.08 seconds of each other. Michael Klueh (3:48.17), Charlie Houchin (3:48.32) and Ryan Feeley (3:49.25) just missed out on going to London in this event. For Vanderkaay, 28, the win earns him his third straight Olympics appearance.
The final Olympics-on-the-line event in Omaha was the women's 400-meter IM. Elizabeth Beisel finished first, setting a personal record and putting up the best time in the event so far in 2012 with a 4:31.74. Caitlin Leverenz also managed put up a PR, touching the timer in 4:34.48. So those two get to swim against the world's best in the 400 IM four weeks from now -- as they should. Beisel and Leverenz outpaced the field Monday night by more than four seconds.
In semifinal swimming, Dana Vollmer set an American record in 100-meter butterfly semis, finishing in 56.42. She's obviously a favorite to snatch an Olympic bid in the event Tuesday night, along with 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin.
Tuesday night will bring finals in the women's 100-meter butterfly, the men's 100-meter breast and the women's 400-meter freestyle.