Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps cruise into 200m medley final at Trials

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OMAHA, Neb. — Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte did their part.

The longtime rivals are headed to another showdown at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Phelps and Lochte cruised through the semifinals of the 200-meter individual medley Thursday night, each of them winning their heats in dominating fashion.

Nathan Adrian, meanwhile, wasn’t dominant, but he’ll defend his 100m freestyle gold in Rio. Unfortunately, Missy Franklin missed her chance to compete in another 100m free at the Olympics.

Lochte is on the verge of his first individual Rio berth. The 11-time Olympic medalist so far has only qualified in the 4x100m relay.

“It means a lot,” Lochte said. “I’ve been racing him in this event since like 2003. He’s a tough competitor. I just love racing against him because it’s a challenge.”

Slowed by a groin injury, the 31-year-old Lochte missed out in the 400 IM — a race he won at the Olympics four years ago — finished fourth in the 200 freestyle, and dropped out of the 200 backstroke.

Though also entered in the 100 butterfly, Lochte is basically putting all his hopes on the 200 IM. A top-two finish will give him that cherished spot, but he really wants a win over Phelps in Friday night’s final before they head to the Olympics.

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

“I’m feeling better as far as like mentally, but physically I’m getting tired,” Lochte said. “Tomorrow night will definitely be a good battle between me and Michael.”

Lochte was the top qualifier at 1 minute, 56.71 seconds, while Phelps took the second spot in 1:57.61. That means they’ll be right beside each other in the final, just as they’ve been so many times during their dazzling careers.

Phelps has already qualified for Rio in the 200 fly, but the most decorated athlete in Olympic history is eager to add two more individual races to his program. He’ll be a big favorite in the 100 fly, a race in which Lochte doesn’t figure to be a major threat.

This is their only real chance to race.

“Him and I have gone back and forth a number of times in this race,” Phelps said. “During the big meets, we have great races. We’re right there with each other tomorrow in the middle of the pool, probably a couple of tenths apart. We’re going to be out and probably step on the gas a little bit more than we have in the past and you’ll have an exciting race.”

Phelps will also likely be a part of all three relays Rio.

Oh, and he celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday.

“I have a bunch of friends here and my mom rented out a room, so we’re all going to get together and have some food,” Phelps said.

Then he’ll turn his attention to a familiar foe.

Elsewhere on the fifth night of the meet, Josh Prenot became the latest Olympic rookie to make the team, knocking off Kevin Cordes in the 200 breaststroke. Cordes had already won the 100 breast and was more than a second under world-record pace at the final turn of the longer race.

But Prenot, furiously bouncing up and down in the water, surged past Cordes on the final lap to win in 2 minutes, 7.17 seconds, setting an American record and finishing just off the world mark of 2:07.01 held since 2012 by Japan’s Akhiro Yamaguchi.

Also Thursday, Cammile Adams won the 200 butterfly after being briefly disqualified one day earlier during the preliminaries. The ruling that she made an illegal turn was quickly overturned after a review provided by the underwater camera, and Adams took advantage of her second chance to win with a time of 2:06.80. Hali Flickinger took the second Olympic spot in 2:07.50.

MORE: Missy Franklin misses qualifying in 100m freestyle

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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