Ryan Lochte faces his final and best chance at a piece of Olympic history on Friday night in Omaha.
The 12-time Olympic medalist, who turns 37 during the Tokyo Olympics on Aug. 3, would become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in history if he wins the 200m individual medley final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
The second-place finisher will likely qualify as well, but that is not guaranteed until enough men make the team in multiple events; the U.S. Olympic pool swimming team cannot exceed 26 men.
The 200m IM is the only individual event Lochte has raced at all four of his Olympic appearances, taking two silvers and a bronze.
Lochte, who won this race at four consecutive world championships from 2009-2015, has held the world record for 12 years but was seeded fifth entering this week’s meet with a time nearly four seconds off his world record.
Though this is Lochte’s best chance at a record-tying fifth Olympic team, he is still an underdog and will race from Lane 7 in the final. See below for more on the stacked finals field.
With his kids Caiden, 4, and Liv, 2, watching in the crowd with wife Kayla, Lochte was fourth in his semifinal heat Thursday night – on Liv’s birthday – and made it into the final with the sixth best time. He told NBC reporter Michele Tafoya that he is confident he has a faster swim in him for the final after some rest, noting he made several mistakes in his semifinal. Earlier on Thursday, Lochte had the second-best time in the preliminary round at 1:58.48.
He is the only one of the eight finalists who did improve his time from prelims to semis.
Earlier in the week, Lochte was 25th of 50 swimmers in the 200m freestyle prelims. He made the Trials cut in five races but has only contested the 200m free and 200m IM.
A look at tonight’s races …
Women’s 200m Breaststroke FINAL — 9:03 p.m. ET
Will Lilly King qualify for both breaststroke events for the second straight Olympics? Could Micah Sumrall (née Lawrence) return to the Olympics? King was fastest in the semifinals and is favored to qualify in yet another event after winning the 100m breast earlier in the week. Sumrall, a 2012 Olympian who won two World medals in this event between London and Rio, was fourth at the 2016 Trials. Challenging them for an Olympic debut are Annie Lazor and Emily Escobedo. King’s training partner, Lazor was third in the 100m breaststroke.
Men’s 200m Backstroke FINAL — 9:13 p.m. ET
Ryan Murphy is eager to defend his 2016 Olympic gold in this event, but who will join him in Tokyo? Austin Katz, the 2018 NCAA champion as a freshman, is seeded second with Bryce Mefford, who graduated from Cal this year, in third. Shaine Casas, who just missed the team by taking third in the 100m backstroke, has another shot at his first Olympics but was the final qualifier into the final.
Women’s 200m Backstroke Semifinals — 9:22 p.m. ET
World record holder and reigning World champion Regan Smith, still just 19, leads the qualifiers, followed by 18-year-old Phoebe Bacon. Smith and Rhyan White, seeded third, were the top finishers in the 100m backstroke. This is the last chance for Olympic and World medalist Kathleen Baker to make a final at Trials; Baker fractured a bone in her foot in early May.
Men’s 200m Individual Medley FINAL — 9:41 p.m. ET
In Lochte’s bid for a fifth Olympic Games at 36 years old, he will face stiff competition from Michael Andrew. Andrew, who already qualified for Tokyo by winning the 100m breaststroke, had the fastest time in both previous rounds and was under Lochte’s world record pace for some of his semifinal. Chase Kalisz, second in the semis, is the 2017 World champion and 2019 World bronze medalist in this event; he won the 400m IM on the first day of Trials. Third-seed Kieran Smith has had himself a week after winning the 200m and 400m free finals to make his first Olympic team. Carson Foster was third fastest in the prelims and is hungry for a top-two finish after placing third in the 400m IM.
Women’s 100m Freestyle FINAL — 9:52 p.m. ET
Known for her backstroke, will Olivia Smoliga make her Olympic return in freestyle? The 26-year-old who won a record eight gold medals at short course world championships in 2018 has yet to secure a spot on this year’s Olympic team but tied for fastest in the semifinals with Natalie Hinds, who believed she was done with the sport after the 2016 Trials but returned in the fall of 2018. Challengers include Abbey Weitzeil, a two-time relay medalist in Rio, and Allison Schmitt, who qualified for her fourth Olympic team by placing second in the 200m free but has never swam an individual 100m free at the Olympics. Reigning Olympic and two-time World champion Simone Manuel was ninth in the semis, missing the final by one spot, later explaining her overtraining syndrome diagnosis in a press conference.
Men’s 100m Butterfly Semifinals — 9:57 p.m. ET
Two-time reigning World champion and world record holder Caeleb Dressel was the top qualifier by 1.54 seconds, setting a U.S. Open record of 50.17 seconds in the prelims. Cal senior Trenton Julian and Tom Shields, who made the Olympic final in this event in Rio, tied for the second-best time. Nineteen-year-old Luca Urlando will try to make another final after finishing third in the 200m fly by nine hundredths of a second.
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