OMAHA — Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, the two best U.S. swimmers this time four years ago, face major tests in finals at the Olympic Trials on Tuesday night
The injured Lochte qualified fifth fastest into the 200m freestyle final, an event where he was the top American at the 2012 Olympics (fourth).
“I’ve never raced in this much pain,” Lochte said Monday night.
Franklin qualified seventh fastest into the 100m backstroke final, which she won at the London Games.
It’s possible neither races those events in Rio, since only the top two Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports app) will clinch an individual Olympic berth.
“Having been here before, I’m putting a lot of that pressure on myself,” Franklin said Tuesday morning ahead of her first of what she hopes is four finals this week. “Remember, hey, this is the best in the country right now. You’re racing against the greatest swimmers in all of the United States. Take it as an honor.”
An event-by-event look at Tuesday night’s semifinals and finals session:
Women’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals
Olympic champion Allison Schmitt, 2013 World champion Missy Franklin and 2015 World champion Katie Ledecky headline arguably the deepest event for both genders. Ledecky (1:55.60) and Leah Smith (1:56.47), who went one-two in the 400m free final Monday, were one-two in the 200m free prelims Tuesday morning. Schmitt was fourth and Franklin seventh. The top eight between two semis make Wednesday night’s final.
Men’s 200m Freestyle Final
This is Ryan Lochte‘s best remaining chance to make the Olympic team, given as many as the top six finishers could make the 4x200m free relay pool. Lochte is better in the 200m individual medley later in the meet, but only two spots are available there (with Michael Phelps in that field, too). He will be hoping that not having to swim Tuesday morning will help ease the groin injury suffered Sunday in the 400m individual medley, where he ended up finishing third. Lochte was fifth overall in the 200m free semis, but only .62 behind top seed Conor Dwyer. The second, third and fourth seeds are all at least 10 years younger than Lochte.
Women’s 100m Backstroke Final
Franklin must come back about 23 minutes after the 200m free semis for this race. She called her 100m back semifinal Monday night “sluggish.” In the last year, Franklin has also expressed frustration with some of her times as she returned from back spasms that slowed her at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and the transition out of NCAA swimming in 2015. Her semifinal time — 1:00.45 — was 1.29 seconds slower than top seed Olivia Smoliga and 1.09 seconds slower than No. 2 Kathleen Baker. Also, 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin snuck into this final as the eighth seed.
Men’s 100m Backstroke Final
This looks like three men racing for two Olympic spots — Olympic champion Matt Grevers, fellow veteran David Plummer and Ryan Murphy, a rising University of California senior. The world record could go down, too, since Plummer was .18 off of Aaron Peirsol‘s mark from 2009 in the semifinals.
Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final
Two first-time Olympians will likely be crowned here. Rising Indiana sophomore Lilly King came into this meet as the fastest in the U.S. this year and was also tops in the preliminary heats and semifinals. Molly Hannis and Katie Meili are the No. 2 and 3 seeds also eyeing their first Olympics, while former world-record holder Jessica Hardy was fourth best in the semifinals.
Men’s 200m Butterfly Semifinals
Unlike Lochte and Franklin, Michael Phelps should feel no pressure tonight. He needs to be in the top eight between two semifinals to advance to Wednesday night’s final. In 2015, Phelps clocked the fastest time in the world in this event since 2009. On Tuesday morning, he was the fastest man in the prelims.
Women’s 200m Individual Medley Semifinals
Maya DiRado, who won the 400m IM on Sunday to make her first Olympic team, qualified fastest into the semifinals. Caitlin Leverenz, who earned bronze at the London Olympics in this event, was .23 behind. Like with Phelps, they should easily make top eight to reach Wednesday’s final.