By Paul Newberry ,AP
OMAHA, Nebraska — Michael Phelps has earned a chance to swim eight Olympic races in London, rallying to win the 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. trials. Phelps was slow off the blocks and made the turn in sixth place Sunday. But he caught Tyler McGill on the return lap and surged to the wall to win 51.14 seconds, well off his world-record pace (49.82) but fastest in the world this year.
Missy Franklin will have four individual races in London after capping her week with a dominating win in the 200 backstroke. She’s expected to swim all three relays, as well, setting her up to become the first U.S. woman to swim seven events in a single games.
Anthony Ervin will have only one event in London, a chaotic dash from one end of the pool to the other. But it’s amazing that he’s going at all, considering he walked away from the sport in 2003 while at the peak of his career, burned out and desperate to discover a deeper meaning to life. He spent eight years working odd jobs, finished his college degree and even auctioned off the gold medal he won in the 50 free at Sydney in 2000 to aid tsunami victims.
Now, after returning to the sport just a year ago, he’s got a chance to win another gold. A runner-up finish behind Cullen Jones in the 50 freestyle locked up his improbable spot on the American team.
A couple of other races provided quite a generation gap. Fifteen-year-old Kathleen Ledecky earned a spot on her first Olympic team with a win in the 800 freestyle, while 45-year-old Dara Torres advanced to the final of the women’s 50 free — and a shot at her sixth Olympic team — with the third-fastest time in the semifinals.
“It’s much tougher this time around,” said Torres, who won three silver medals in Beijing but had only one event at these trials. “People were saying I was middle aged when I was 41, but I’m really, really middle aged now.”
Phelps was slow off the blocks and made the turn in sixth place. But he caught Tyler McGill on the return lap and surged to the wall to win 51.14 seconds, well off his world-record pace (49.82) but fastest in the world this year.
McGill hung on for the second Olympic spot in 51.32. Ryan Lochte, swimming an event he normally doesn’t in major competitions, just missed adding another race to his already busy program. He was third, 33-hundreths behind McGill.
Phelps, who won an Olympic-record eight golds four years ago, is set to swim the same in individual events in London: the 100 and 200 fly, the 200 and 400 individual medley and the 200 freestyle.
In an ominous sign for his rivals, Phelps isn’t happy with just winning. He’s still looking for the perfect race.
“That was a pretty crappy first 50 and a pretty terrible finish,” Phelps said. “I should have taken another stroke. It felt OK. It didn’t feel great, didn’t feel terrible.
“It’s done, we’re done.”
The races that really matter are still to come.
“It shows that I can do the kind of event program like this at a high level again,” Phelps said. “We were struggling over the last couple years at doing one event at this level. (It’s good) being able to get a couple under the belt this week and hopefully build off of this. It will be good to get home and start heading toward London.”
Franklin blew away the field in the 200 back with a time of 2:06.12, fastest in the world this year and nearly 1 1/2 seconds ahead of runner-up Elizabeth Beisel, who secured the second spot in London at 2:07.58.
Franklin had already earned spots in the 100 and 200 freestyle and 100 back, but the 200 back is her best event. She’s the defending world champion and heads to London as the overwhelming favorite in that race.