By Jim Rusnak // USA Swimming Director of Media Properties | Thursday, June 30, 2016
OMAHA – In a week that has been marked by a group of newcomers stepping up and sweeping away some of the old guard, an Olympic legend added a little bit more to his legacy Wednesday at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time with 22 medals over the course of his career, won the men’s 200m butterfly with a time of 1:54.84.
In doing so, he became not only the first swimmer to defend an Olympic Trials title from 2012 at this meet, but he also broke a number of other milestones along the way.
Here’s a look at some of them, by the numbers:
- 5 – The number of Olympic Games Phelps has now qualified for. He is the first male swimmer to make five U.S. Olympic Teams.
“I think that means the most tonight,” Phelps said. “I think just that with everything that’s happened, and being able to come back, that was probably harder than any other swim I’ve had in my life. I didn’t feel good the first two swims, and I didn’t really feel that good tonight.
“Getting on the team is the most important thing, and that’s the only thing I had to do tonight. I tried to take it out, and prayed to God that I would be able to hang on. I was just excited, because I had the opportunity to make my fifth. God, I’ve been in this sport a long time.”
- 30 Years, 364 Days – Phelps age Wednesday night, making him -- for now -- the oldest male Olympic Trials champion since at least 1960, which is as far back as USA Swimming’s Trials statistics in this category go. Before Phelps, it was Gary Hall Jr., who won the 50m free in 2004 at the age of 29.
- 4 – The number of Olympic Trials titles Phelps holds in the 200m butterfly, which he won in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. He is the first swimmer to hold four Olympic Trials titles in a single event.
- 25 and Counting – The number of Olympic events Phelps has qualified for over the course of his career. The next closest swimmer in this category is Ryan Lochte, who qualified for his 13th career Olympic event in the men’s 800m free relay Tuesday.
- 15 – Phelps’s age when he qualified for his first Olympic Team in the 200m fly in March of 2000. He was the youngest American male swimmer to make an Olympic team in 68 years.
- 8 – Age, in weeks, of Boomer Phelps, who was at poolside tonight watching his daddy continue to make history.
- 6 – Phelps’s world ranking this year in the 200m butterfly after his swim tonight.
“Just being able to finish (my career) how I want to is just so important to me,” Phelps said. “And getting on this team is what I wanted to do.
“This 200 fly that will happen in the next couple weeks will probably be harder than any 200 fly I’ve ever done. Getting ready for some of the guys who have swum some decent times already this year, and last year as well. That’s what I have to prepare for, and that’s what Bob and I are planning to work on.”
Tom Shields finished second behind Phelps in 1:55.81, and will likely be added to the Olympic Team later in the week, pending swimmers qualifying in double events.
Most Dominant Performance of the Night
Katie Ledecky turned in the most dominant performance of the night Wednesday, winning the 200m freestyle in 1:54.88, 1.3 seconds ahead of runner-up Missy Franklin, who touched in 1:56.18.
Finishing behind them and qualifying for the Olympic Team in the 800m free relay were Leah Smith (1:56.63) and Allison Schmitt (1:56.72). Cierra Runge (1:57.16) and Melanie Margalis (1:57.65) finished fifth and sixth, and are in position to be added to the team pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
It was Ledecky’s second win of the meet after taking the 400m freestyle on Monday. She and Franklin will represent the U.S. in the 200m free and 800m free relay in Rio.
Ledecky holds the fastest time in the world this year in the 200m free in 1:54.43, a swim she did in January at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Austin.
“I think the main goal this year is getting into (the 200 free) and racing,” Ledecky said. “It’s all about racing, this event. It’s a challenge, and it is an event that I’m enjoying more and more. I feel like I swim it differently every time I swim it, but it always feels pretty much the same.”
Best Bounce-Back Performance of the Night
Franklin bounced back from a disappointing seventh-place performance in the 100m backstroke Tuesday to make the team tonight in the 200m free and 800m free relay.
One of the factors that made her finish in the 100m back so heartbreaking was that she was the defending Olympic champion in that event.
That disappointment, happily, is behind her now.
“Last night was really tough,” Franklin said, fighting back tears of joy. “Coming back from that, I was telling myself I’m not done fighting; I’m not done with believing in myself, and as I came out here tonight, I think that was the most proud race I’ve ever swam in my entire career – to make it back from such a loss last night and telling myself I still have it in me to do whatever I believe I can do. And it’s not only a relay spot, but an individual spot in that as well. I’m so thrilled.
“People say there’s nothing like making your first Olympic team, but there’s really nothing like making your second Olympic team. It’s moments like this where you just have to sit back and say, ‘You did it.’”
Best Race of the Night
Maya DiRado was in control of the women’s 200m IM from the backstroke to the finish and touched in 2:09.54, the third-fastest time in the world this year. She will now head to her first Olympic Games to compete in two events after taking the 400m IM on the first night of competition.
While DiRado turned in a decisive win, the best race of the night came down to second place in this event.
Melanie Margalis and Caitlin Leverenz were neck-and-neck coming down the homestretch, and the race came down to the last stroke, with Margalis coming out on top by five-hundredths of a second, 2:10.11 to 2:10.16.
Margalis will likely be added to the Olympic roster later in the week in this event and the 800m free relay, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
“I don’t know what just happened,” Margalis said. “I really didn’t know if I had gotten my hand on the wall on time. I just looked up, and I was so happy that I did.”
Top Performance of the Night
While it didn’t happen in a final, Kevin Cordes had the top performance of the night, setting a U.S. Open and Trials meet record in the semifinals of the men’s 200m breaststroke in 2:07.81. He was just 39-hundredths off the American record.
Cordes also set the American record in the semifinals of the 100m breaststroke on the first night of competition.
“I feel a big weight off my shoulders after the 100 breaststroke, so now it’s just a bonus – go out, have fun and race, do what I know what to do, and stick to the plan,” Cordes said.
A close runner-up for performance of the night goes to Nathan Adrian, who swam the second-fastest time in the world this year in the semifinals of the 100m freestyle in 47.91.