Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin qualified for the 100m freestyle finals on the second day of the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.
Phelps, in his first international race since the London Olympics, beat World 100m free silver medalist Jimmy Feigen in the preliminary heats to secure one of two American berths in the A final Friday. Phelps clocked 48.45 seconds in an event he doesn’t normally swim at major international meets.
“My stroke actually felt easier than it normally had,” Phelps told reporters in Gold Coast. “The first 50 felt really good.”
Phelps was third fastest overall in the prelims, behind U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.05) and Australian World champion James Magnussen (48.25).
Franklin was the top American and fourth overall in the women’s 100m free heats, three days after she was helped off the pool deck at practice with back spasms.
“Yesterday especially, I was swimming a lot more scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Franklin said. “I’m definitely feeling more confident that my back’s moving in the right direction.”
Franklin faces tougher competition than Phelps in her final.
That’s because Australian World champion Cate Campbell swam the fastest time in the world this year to win her heat in 52.62. Franklin posted 53.75, just ahead of Simone Manuel, the other American into the top final.
The finals session is at 5 a.m. ET on Friday.
Katie Ledecky, who won the 200m free and 800m free on the first day of the meet, was fifth in her 100m free heat in 55.25 seconds and did not advance to the finals. The 100m free is a little too short of a distance to be in her wheelhouse.
NBC will have Pan Pacs coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.
Pan Pacs are not only the biggest meet for U.S. and Australian swimmers this year, but times from Pan Pacs and the U.S. Championships will also determine the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
In other events, World bronze medalist Jessica Hardy and Olympian Breeja Larson were the second and third qualifiers behind Japan’s Kanako Watanabe into the top 100m breaststroke final.
American Kevin Cordes was fastest in men’s 100m breast prelims.
Japan’s Kosuke Hagino led the 400m individual medley qualifiers. Americans Chase Kalisz and Tyler Clary also made the top final.
Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel and Maya DiRado were the two fastest women in the 400m IM prelims.