Michael Phelps came from behind to win his last race in the United States at the US Olympic trials before the Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro on 5th August. He never looked like he was going to disappoint his fans in his final race in America as the lanky swimmer dazzled in the pool and clocked 51.00 seconds, finishing first in the 100-metre Butterfly just ahead of Tom Shields.
The ‘Flying Fish’, as he is nicknamed, started in lane seven after a sluggish swim in the semi-finals and it took him some time to get his gears going, making the turn in fourth place. It was reminiscent of the old Phelps who would rally past opponents in the closing stages of a race.
He completed his back 50m in 26.94 seconds and when he hit the final wall, he did not hesitate to show how much the win meant to him as he clenched his fist and punched the water in joy when he saw ‘1’ beside his name on the board. This win gives him a chance to win his fourth straight gold in the 100-metre butterfly at the Olympics in Rio this summer.
The second spot went to Tom Shields who finished at 51.20 seconds, just ahead of third placed Seth Stubblefield who clocked 51.24.
"Bob (coach Bowman) asked me what the game plan was tonight and I said, 'I don't want to lose my last race on American soil'," said Phelps. "There's been a lot of history here and 51 (seconds) is OK but it's going to take more than that to win a gold medal."
With the trials over, the most decorated Olympian of all time with a huge 22-medal haul over three Olympics will go into his fifth and, according to him, his final Olympics having qualified in three events- the 100m and 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley.
The Baltimore Bullet earlier saw off his longtime rival Ryan Lochte in the 200-metre individual medley final, finishing 0.31 seconds ahead of his fellow American, leading at each turn in the race. Both swimmers have now qualified to compete in the Olympics in Rio. Phelps has beaten Lochte in the 200m IM each time they have gone up against each other in the US trials and the Olympic games. Lochte, however, got the best of Phelps at the 2011 World Championships where he finished on top, setting a world record in the process.
“Ryan and I always have great races against one another,” Phelps said. “He and I have been racing each other since 2004. I think when we race, we bring each other to a different level. We take each other to that next step.”
Katie Ledecky, on the other hand, cruised to a win in the women's 800m freestyle at the CenturyLink Center even though she could not finish in world record time as many had expected.
She finished in 8:10.32, a huge 10 seconds clear of the second placed Leah Smith.
Ledecky goes into the Rio Olympics also having qualified in three events- the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle- and will hope to become the first swimmer since 1968 to complete the Olympic gold medal distance hat-trick.