OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Phelps wasn’t about to lose his last race in the United States.
With his huge wingspan cutting through the water, Phelps dazzled the home fans one last time.
Phelps made it three-for-three at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, rallying on the return lap to win the 100-meter butterfly Saturday night.
In what was billed as the farewell race in his home country, Phelps competed in lane seven after a sluggish swim in the semifinals. As usual, it took him a lap to really get going, making the turn in fourth place.
But Phelps powered to the front, as he’s done so many times. Even with a long glide to the wall, he finished in 51.00 seconds.
When Phelps saw the “1” beside his name, he pounded the water and pointed toward his family — including 7-week-old son Boomer — up in the stands. He’ll now get a chance to win his fourth straight gold in the 100 fly at Rio.
When his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, asked for a game plan before the race, Phelps kept it simple.
“I don’t want to lose my last race on American soil,” he said. “That was king of in my head.”
Katie Ledecky and Maya DiRado also won their third individual events on the next-to-last night of the trials, while Nathan Adrian made up for the disappointment of four years ago by winning the 50 freestyle.
Olympic 100m freestyle champion Nathan Adrian won the 50m free in 21.51 seconds. Anthony Ervin, at age 35, finished .01 behind to made his third Olympic team. Ervin shared gold in this event in 2000 with Gary Hall Jr.
For Ledecky, it’s been the dominating performance everyone expected, this one a nearly 10-second victory in the 800 freestyle.
For DiRado, it’s been a huge surprise, the first-time Olympian setting herself up to make quite a splash before she retires at age 23.
A late bloomer who already lined up a job as a business analyst in Atlanta, she followed her victories in the 200 and 400 individual medley by knocking off defending Olympic champion Missy Franklin in the 200 backstroke.
Franklin finished second to at least ensure she’ll get a chance to go for another gold in Rio.
Phelps, of course, is also planning to retire — for the second time — as soon as his fifth Olympics are over. At age 31, he cruised through Omaha with victories in both butterfly races as well as the 200 individual medley. Assuming he is on all three men’s relays in Rio, he’ll get a chance to add six more medals to his already massive collection — 18 golds and 22 medals overall.
The second Olympic spot in the 100 fly went to Tom Shields, who touched in 51.20 to barely beat out Seth Stubblefield (51.24) and Jack Conger (51.26).
“I have a lot of emotion here, with Boomer and with the family here, and being my last meet on American soil,” Phelps said. “We did everything that we wanted to do.”
Phelps didn’t go quite as fast as he wanted during the trials.
He’ll be looking to add more speed over the next months.
“A 51.0 is OK,” he said, “but it’s going to take more than that to win a gold medal.”