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Phelps and Lochte ease through heats

1st August 2012

• US swimmers coast through heats after celebrations
• GB team have difficult morning in the pool

Team-mates one night, and rivals the next. Both Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were back in the pool on Wednesday morning, having had just a short night’s sleep. They had spent several happy hours carousing with USA fans around the Aquatics Centre after their victory in the 4x200m freestyle relay on Tuesday.

Now, they were squaring off against each other again, in round two of their head-to-head contest in the Olympic individual medleys. A week ago this contest was billed as a battle for the title of the greatest swimmer on the planet, but in the last few days neither man has shown the kind of form to justify that tag.

In the heats it was Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh who qualified fastest, in 1min 57.20sec. Lochte, swimming in a different heat, was 0.83sec behind him. In truth he coasted through it, stepping it up for the final 50m. “All that celebrating takes a lot of energy out of you,” he admitted. You would have thought the celebrating was the easy part, but still. Phelps was beaten in second in his heat by Japan’s Kosuke Hagino. He still qualified in fourth.

“I did not really get much sleep last night. I did not warm down at all,” Phelps said. “I must have left the dining hall at 11.30pm, got back to my room probably about 12am. I do not really know what time I fell asleep.”

After his losses in the 400m individual medley and 200m butterfly, the defeat will only prompt further doubts about whether or not Phelps has the desire, or perhaps simply the speed, to win an individual gold medal at these Olympics. Great Britain’s James Goddard was not so far behind, going through in sixth position after finishing second to Cseh. Joe Roebuck joined him, just, after qualifying in 15th place. It was not so long ago that Roebuck was struck down with serious illness, so that was a good achievement.

Lochte had already had a busy morning. He was in the heats of the 200m backstroke an hour before the medley. He qualified second for those too, behind his team-mate Tyler Clary. It was Clary, of course, who had said that Phelps looked like a man “asking to get beat”, a remark which cost him a lot of criticism at the time but has since come to seem pretty astute.

Unlike the medley swimmers, Great Britain’s two backstrokers had something of a stinker. Which did not stop whoever runs Team GB’s official Twitter account from describing it as “a great effort guys!” Whether Chris Walker-Hebborn agrees with them isn’t known, but what is certain is that his time was almost three seconds down on his personal best, and his 22nd-place finish was the worst result he has ever had at a major championships. Marco Loughran did a little better, finishing 18th. But his time was still worse than what he is capable of. Stacey Tadd was also knocked out of the 200m breaststroke.

Fran Halsall rather summed it all up. “It felt shit,” she said after her swim in the heats of the 100m freestyle. At least she qualified for the semi-finals, in seventh place. Her team-mate Amy Smith got there too, in 13th. Halsall says she needs to swim under 54sec to make the final – her heat time was 54.02sec – and given that China’s Yi Tang swam 53.28sec to qualify in first, even doing that may not be enough.

Great Britain’s women’s 4x200m relay team will also be looking to improve in the evening. They qualified seventh for the final, and may consider bringing in Becky Adlington to replace Ellie Faulkner, who swam the slowest split.


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