U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are taking place June 13-20 in Omaha, Nebraska. Friday's finals session can be seen live on NBC at 9 p.m. ET, as well as streamed on NBCOlympics.com [HERE] and the NBC Sports App.
Ryan Lochte has a lane in the final. Michael Andrew has Lochte’s world record in his sights. The men’s 200m individual medley brings the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials to a boil on Night 6.
Both swimming stars, 14 years apart in age, will line up three lanes apart in Friday’s blockbuster event with everything on the line.
For Lochte: Redemption. Affirmation. History. With a top-two finish he would become the oldest male member of any U.S. Olympic swim team at 36 and have a chance to put his previous Olympic experience – marred by controversy – behind him for good.
For Andrew: Ascension. Affirmation. History. Swimming’s perpetual outlier, for his approach to the sport and his prodigious talent in it, would add a second Olympic event to his calendar. He has a chance to strike down Lochte’s 10-year-old world record. In the semifinals, he gave it a serious look.
Andrew turned at the 150m mark Thursday night 1.21 seconds ahead of record pace. In the final leg, the freestyle portion of the four-stroke event, he lost some steam and settled for the fastest time in the world this year, 1:55.26. Lochte clocked 1:54 flat at the 2011 World Championships, when the six-time Olympic gold medalist was at the peak of his powers.
Just about everything has changed for Lochte since then. By now, you likely know the story (if you don’t, the documentary “In Deep with Ryan Lochte” is a must-stream on Peacock). His motivation for Tokyo transcends competition. He wants to prove – to his family, to the world, to himself – that he is a changed man from the reality TV star who drunkenly vandalized a Brazilian gas station in 2016. The opportunity to represent his country once more, at a fifth Olympics games, offers the best chance to do that.
But he’ll need to produce something special Friday night to get there. Lochte’s qualifying time of 1:58.65 was good enough to make the final but will likely not threaten for a top-two Olympic position. On the NBC primetime broadcast, Rowdy Gaines estimated that Lochte would have to shave two seconds off that time in the final to make the team.
Does he have a faster swim in him? “Oh, 100 percent,” he told Michele Tafoya after the semifinal. “There’s a lot I’ve got to improve on, especially [from] that race. That just was not a good one.”
Of course, Lochte could make the team even if he loses the race – and his world record – to Andrew. He would just have to out-touch the remaining six swimmers in the final, including fellow Rio Olympian and 2017 world champion in the event, Chase Kalisz.
The 200m IM final is scheduled to take place smack in the middle of Friday’s hour-long session. Surrounding it, three other finals and two pairs of semifinals round out the schedule.
Lilly King is likely to qualify for her second Tokyo event in the women’s 200m backstroke. She hopes to be joined by longtime training partner and friend, Annie Lazor.
Similar to King, Ryan Murphy can book his second-consecutive Olympic double with a strong effort in the men’s 200m backstroke. Murphy is the defending Olympic champion in both individual backstroke events.
And in a women’s 100m freestyle final that, to the shock of the swimming world, will not include Rio 2016 gold medalist Simone Manuel, well-rounded Rio Olympian Olivia Smoliga leads an unexpectedly wide-open field.
Follow along below for up-to-the-minute highlights and results as the action unfolds.
Women’s 200m Breaststroke – Final
Lilly King kept her promise. When Annie Lazor’s father, David, passed away suddenly in April, King pledged to Lazor’s mother that she would make sure her training partner made the U.S. Olympic team, whatever it took.
It took 2:21.07.
Lazor won the first final of the evening, the women’s 200m breaststroke, to qualify for her first Olympics. King finished second in 2:21.75 to clinch a Tokyo double in the individual breaststroke events. She is the defending Olympic champion in the 100 breast.
Emily Escobedo and Bethany Galat made King work for it, however. Despite pulling far ahead through the first 100m, King had to hold off the charging Escobedo and Galat to touch second behind Lazor.
1. Annie Lazor - 2:21.07
2. Lilly King - 2:21.75
3. Emily Escobedo - 2:22.64
4. Bethany Galat - 2:22.81
5. Ella Nelson - 2:25.10
6. Micah Sumrall - 2:26.78
7. Allie Raab - 2:27.47
8. Rachel Bernhardt - 2:29.57
Men’s 200m Backstroke – Final
Ryan Murphy made it clear, he’s not ready to release his grip on American backstroke swimming.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist from Rio 2016 will again represent Team USA in both individual backstroke events after winning the 200m backstroke final in 1:54.20. And he’s confident he’ll have more in store for the Tokyo.
“I know exactly where I can improve over the next five weeks to be a little better in Tokyo,” Murphy said.
Fellow Cal Bear Bryce Mefford will join Murphy in Japan, finishing second in 1:54.79.
1. Ryan Murphy - 1:54.20
2. Bryce Mefford - 1:54.79
3. Austin Katz - 1:55.86
4. Hunter Tapp - 1:56.76
5. Destin Lasco - 1:56.98
6. Shaine Casas - 1:57.64
7. Jack Aikins - 1:57.90
8. Daniel Carr - 158.76
Women’s 200m Backstroke – Semifinals
Regan Smith, the rising star from Minnesota, is on her way to adding a third event in Tokyo with the top time out of the women’s 100m butterfly semifinals, 2:07.23.
Rhyan White, who qualified for the Olympics alongside Smith in the 100m backstroke, advanced to Saturday’s final as well from Heat 2.
Eighteen-year-old Phoebe Bacon won Heat 1 win 2:07.46 to earn a middle lane in the final.
1. Regan Smith - 2:07.23
2. Phoebe Bacon - 2:07.46
3. Rhyan White - 2:08.39
4. Kathleen Baker - 2:08.58
5. Jo Jo Ramey - 2:08.90
6. Lisa Bratton - 2:09.09
7. Isabelle Stadden - 2:09.20
8. Hali Flickinger - 2:09.61
Men’s 200m Individual Medley – Final
It was not to be for Ryan Lochte in Tokyo. Chasing a fifth Olympics in the event for which he still holds the world record, the 36-year-old finished seventh in 1:59.67, 2.7 seconds outside of Olympic position.
But while this summer’s Olympics won’t be in his future, he’s not ready to hang up his goggles quite yet.
"This ain't the end of the road,” Lochte said. “There's a lot more I want to accomplish in the sport of swimming, whether it's in the pool or outside the pool.”
Michael Andrew once again gave Lochte’s record a look, but once again the yellow line eluded him in the freestyle leg. His time of 1:55.44 was still good enough for first place in the final and a second Olympic qualification.
Chase Kalisz finished second in 1:56.97. The medley specialist will race both distances in Tokyo after winning the 400m IM earlier in the week.
1. Michael Andrew - 1:55.44
2. Chase Kalisz - 1:56.97
3. Kieran Smith - 1:57.23
4. Carson Foster - 1:57.99
5. Sam Stewart - 1:58.02
6. Andrew Seliskar - 1:58.35
7. Ryan Lochte - 1:59.67
8. Trenton Julian - 2:04.49
Women’s 100m Freestyle – Final
Abbey Weitzel won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics as a prelim swimmer in the women’s 4x100m relay. Five years later, the former Cal Bear has a chance to lead that relay team.
Weitzel finished first in 53.53 to qualify not only for the relay, but for the individual 100m free as well. Erika Brown, out fast and holding on in her outside lane, will join her in the event most expected would prominently feature Simone Manuel.
Olivia Smoliga finished third in 53.63. She will represent the U.S. for the second-straight Olympics on the 4x100 relay team. Natalie Hinds, in fourth, qualified for her first Olympics.
Eight-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt may have done just enough to qualify for her third event in Tokyo. The 31-year-old touched sixth in the final and could be selected to swim in prelims for the U.S. team. She will compete in both the individual 200 free and 4x200 free relay after finishing second earlier in the week.
1. Abbey Weitzeil - 53.53
2. Erika Brown - 53.59
3. Olivia Smoliga - 53.63
4. Natalie Hinds - 53.84
5. Catie DeLoof - 53.87
6. Allison Schmitt - 54.12
7. Kate Douglass - 54.17
8. Linnea Mack - 54.32
Men’s 100m Butterfly – Semifinals
Caeleb Dressel lit up the last heat of the evening, logging the third fastest 100m butterfly time in history – and the best ever swam on U.S. soil – at 49.76.
He now owns the three best times in the 100 fly all-time and will have a chance to break his own world record (49.50) in Saturday's final.
ADVANCED TO FINAL
1. Caeleb Dressel - 49.76
2. Tom Shields - 51.20
3. Coleman Stewart - 51.54
4. Danny Kovac - 51.61
5. Trenton Julian - 51.70
6. Luca Urlando - 51.77
7. Zach Harting - 51.99
8. Tyler Sesvold - 52.06