OMAHA, Neb. – Ryan Lochte, Peter Vanderkaay and Elizabeth Beisel officially qualified for the Olympic Team Monday at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Each swimmer punched his or her ticket to London by virtue of a first-place finish – Lochte in the men’s 400m IM, Vanderkaay in the men’s 400m freestyle and Beisel in the women’s 400m IM.
The second place finisher in each of those events – Michael Phelps in the men’s 400m IM, Conor Dwyer in the men’s 400m free and Caitlin Leverenz in the women’s 400m IM – will likely be added to the team, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
Men’s 400m IM
The men’s 400m IM was expected to be the marquee matchup of Monday night’s finals, with defending world champion Lochte, world record holder Phelps and fourth-fastest swimmer of all time Tyler Clary going stroke-for-stroke for one of a possible two spots on the team. The race wouldn’t disappoint.
Each of the three swimmers held the lead at different points in the race – Phelps in the fly, Clary in the backstroke and Lochte taking over in the breaststroke.
Once Lochte took the lead, he never looked back, building a body-length over the rest of the field heading into the last 100 meters. He was ahead of the U.S. Open and Trials meet record pace coming into the final wall, but visibly eased up in the final 15-20 meters, touching in 4:07.06. Phelps was second in 4:07.89, followed by Clary in 4:09.92.
Lochte’s and Phelps’s times were the top two in the world this year.
“The first race is always the hardest,” Lochte said. “Now I can take a breath and relax. Whatever happens, happens. I can go out and have fun now. I have so many races left, and the first race is over. Now I’ve just got to get ready for tomorrow’s races.”
Phelps was pleased with his performance.
“This was an event that I’ve done for a long time, and I’m happy to finish my career with it,” Phelps said. “The crowd played a big role in giving me extra energy in the last 150, so I was very pleased with that. I thought if I was 4:07, I would be happy with it.”
Men's 400m Freestyle
Vanderkaay came out on top of a tight one in the men’s 400m freestyle, out-touching training partner Dwyer 3:47.67 to 3:47.83.
Vanderkaay trailed Charlie Houchin for the first 100 meters of the race, but took the lead and was ahead of American record-pace at the 200-meter mark. Houchin and Vanderkaay then went stroke-for-stroke, with Houchin taking a five-hundredth-of-a-second lead at the final turn. From there it was a mad dash down the stretch, with Dwyer surging in the final 50 meters and Vanderkaay holding on for the win.
“I wanted to go out kind of fast, and apparently Charlie wanted to go out fast, too, and he helped me do that,” Vanderkaay said. “He’s a great racer. I just tried to get my hand on the touchpad.”
Women's 400m Im
In the women’s 400m IM, Caitlin Leverenz jumped out to a half-body length lead over the field in the butterfly leg, but Beisel, the defending world champ in this event, reeled her in during the backstroke leg and pulled away by more than a body length at the 200-meter mark.
Leverenz made another move during the breaststroke, but couldn’t make up the distance as the two cruised down the homestretch for a 1-2 finish in 4:31.74 and 4:34.43. Beisel's time was the fastest in the world this year.
“It was so hard coming in tonight,” Beisel said. “I was a mess. I was so nervous. It’s so relieving to have this behind me now, and I’m so excited to see my team – Ryan, Conor and Peter do so well.”
The top 16 swimmers in prelims of the women’s 100m butterfly and men’s 100m breaststroke swam in the semifinal of those events tonight. The top eight swimmers from tonight’s semifinals will compete in tomorrow night’s finals.
Dana Vollmer set the American record and turned in the fastest time in the world this year in the women’s 100m butterfly, touching in 56.42. She is the top seed heading into tomorrow night’s finals of this event.
Brendan Hansen flirted with the American record in the men’s 100m breaststroke but came up short in 59.71. It was the fourth-fastest time in the world this year, and he will be the top seed in tomorrow night’s finals.
The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials continue Tuesday with prelims of the women’s 100m backstroke, men’s 200m freestyle, women’s 100m breaststroke, men’s 100m backstroke and women’s 400m free. Semifinals will be conducted in the men’s 200m free, women’s 100m breast, men’s 100m back and women’s 100m back. Finals will be conducted in the women’s 100m butterfly, men’s 100m breast and women’s 400m free.
For more information about the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, including complete results, go to www.usaswimming.org/trials. Also, follow all the action from Trials on your mobile device with DeckPass Plus, available now for your iPad, iPhone or Android.