OMAHA, Neb. — Michael Phelps 2, Ryan Lochte 1.
In their most stirring duel of the U.S. Olympic trials, Phelps and Lochte went stroke for stroke in the 200-meter individual medley Saturday night, the world's two greatest swimmers never more than inches apart.
But Phelps led at every turn, and he really turned it on at the end to edge Lochte with a time of 1 minute, 54.84 seconds — nine-hundredths ahead of the runner-up and the fastest time in the world this year.
"It feels good to be back on that side, but I'm sure that's not going to be the end of us going back and forth," Phelps said. "I'm just happy to be able to have a good race like that, kind of fold it all together."
For Phelps, it was an emphatic message on his 27th birthday that he intends to turn his last Olympics into another major medal haul. For Lochte, it was a gutsy performance coming just a half-hour after he won the grueling 200 backstroke.
"The best thing about swimming is racing and stepping up against the world's best," Lochte said, not looking all that tired before he returned for his third race of the night, the semifinals of the 100 butterfly.
In the 200-meter backstroke, Lochte was sixth at the first turn, but he quickly moved toward the front and took the lead for good with a brilliant flip turn off the final wall. Pulling away, he won with a time of 1 minute, 54.54 seconds, second-fastest in the world this year behind Japan's Ryosuke Irie.
Lochte qualified for four individual events in London.
Tyler Clary took second in 1:54.88, giving him two individual races at the Olympics. He bounced back from the disappointment of finishing third behind Lochte and Phelps in the 400 IM.
Rebecca Soni also locked up a second individual race in London, cruising to an easy win in the 200 breaststroke. Soni won with the fastest time in the world this year, 2:21.13.
Micah Lawrence is heading to the Olympics for the first time, taking second place in 2:23.03. Thirty-year-old Amanda Beard missed out on making a fifth Olympic team, fading to sixth in 2:26.42.
Janet Evans retires again
Janet Evans climbed out of the pool and was quickly handed her retirement papers. She was told she had to check temporarily retired or permanently retired.
Her choice was a no-brainer.
"I paused for like one second and moved it to permanent," she said. "That was it."
Evans called it a career — again — after finishing 53rd out of 65 swimmers in the 800-meter freestyle preliminaries Saturday at the U.S. trials. Her long-shot bid to make the Olympics at 40 after retiring 15 years ago was over.
Evans walked away smiling, buoyed by the cheers from a sellout crowd and shouts of "Go Janet!"
Evans, a three-time Olympian, won the 800 free at the 1988 and '92 Olympics, and she was undefeated in the grueling event for eight years. She retired after the 1996 Games.