Michael Phelps wins 200 freestyle

Updated: June 28, 2012, 2:10 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

OMAHA, Neb. -- Round 2 goes to Michael Phelps.

Getting back at rival Ryan Lochte, Phelps stretched out to win a thrilling 200-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials Wednesday night, setting up a duel in London that just gets more tantalizing with every race between the world's two greatest swimmers.

Lochte won the 400 individual medley on the opening night of the trials, his third straight major victory over the winningest Olympian ever. But Phelps isn't going down that easily.

He got off to a stronger start than usual, leading at the first turn and holding the advantage through all four laps. Both swimmers got a big boost off the final turn, cutting through the water like missiles, and Lochte went stroke for stroke down the stretch.

But Phelps stretched out his right arm at the wall, touching just ahead of Lochte. The winning time was 1 minute, 45.70 seconds -- five-hundredths of a second ahead of Lochte.

"Obviously, it's been a while, so it felt better" to beat Lochte, Phelps said. "But there's still some things I can improve on."

Phelps reduced his workload by scratching the 100-meter freestyle. His coach, Bob Bowman, announced the scratch Wednesday night shortly after Phelps won the 200 free.

Phelps entered the 100 free mainly as insurance in case he failed to qualify for one of his better events. He actually swam in the preliminaries four years ago to ensure himself a spot on the 400 freestyle relay, but Bowman felt that wasn't necessary this time. Phelps had the second fastest seed time coming into the trials, and he's been on the 400 free relay at the past two Olympics.

Phelps still has four events left in Omaha, including the 200 individual medley, 200 butterfly and 100 fly. He'll likely scratch the 200 backstroke, which begins Friday.

[+] EnlargeMichael Phelps
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRyan Lochte and Michael Phelps compete in the final of the men's 200 freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials Wednesday in Omaha, Neb.

"I feel old," the 26-year-old Phelps quipped. "Just getting in the water to race is what motivates me."

Matt Grevers captured the men's 100 backstroke with the second fastest time ever, 52.08 seconds. Nick Thoman finished second in 52.86 to claim the second spot on the Olympic team.

Lochte said he went out too slow in the beginning of the 200 free, a mistake he intends to correct when he gets to London. Phelps' winning time was nearly 3 seconds slower than his gold-medal effort in Beijing, though that was aided by high-tech bodysuits, which since have been banned by the world governing body.

"We didn't really try to pick it up until, like, the last 75, so I'll save that for the Olympics," Lochte said. "I was just really relaxed for the first 125, and then the last 75, I was like, 'All right, now we've got to put it in gear.' So I kind of waited a little late, but I'll take it."

They'll have one more showdown in Omaha, facing off in the 200 individual medley. Then it's off to the meet that really matters, where Phelps is plotting another eight-event program in what he says will be his final Olympics, giving him a chance to match his record performance four years ago.

Lochte is standing in the way this time.

"I love racing against him," the Floridian said. "It was really fun."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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