US Olympic Trials, Omaha, Day 3 heats:
Olympic and world champion Michael Phelps knew what he had to do by the time he stepped up for the heats of his signature 200m butterfly at US London 2012 trials in Omaha this morning: just get through - and conserve energy for that 200m free clash later with Ryan Lochte.
It took until heat 12 of the 200m butterfly to see a sub-2-minute swim as the seeded heats began for those with a shot at Olympic selection. The moment those heats begin, USA Swimming turns off the webcast video, NBC unwilling to show the likes of Phelps anywhere other than on its shows. Fair enough if you're paying the bill.
The day of online subscription is in its infancy but it will not belong before it grows up, industry experts tell us, though in this case, there is no subscription offered, simply no service provided for those who may wish to watch live as Phelps and Co progress through the rounds. Money is being made from heats, though, as the numbers entered and healthy crowd numbers confirm.
Bobby Bollier set the pace in heat 12 on 1:56.69, Tyler Clary taking het 13 in 1:57.23, with Phelps, in the last prelim, matching the 1:57.75 of Thomas Luchsinger (heat 12) and making sure he outstretched the man in the next lane, Dan Madwed, on 1:58.27. The door to the semi was shut at 2:00.03, all other qualifying efforts inside 2mins.
Phelps will race Lochte in the first final this evening then get a break of three 100m finals before the semis of the 200m butterfly beckon him back to the water.
The 200m free will be a thriller. "We're great racers, we just want to win," said Lochte after the semis yesterday. "We definitely kicked it in gear the last 50, me and him. We know tomorrow night is going to be a lot faster."
Phelps' Baltimore teammate Allison Schmitt followed up her 4:02 win in the 400m free with a comfortable 1:58.02 in 200m free this morning, two heats after Dana Vollmer, another winner and world-record-pace tester from last night, set the prelim standard at 1:58.34.
Missy Franklin took heat 10 in 1:58.62, with three others inside 1:59 in heats. The semis closed at 2:00.36, among those locked out Katie Hoff, on 2:00.68 in 20th and the 400m silver medallist from yesterday Chloe Sutton, on 2:01.32 in 32nd. The fund-raiser heats featured 99 swimmers, with three opting out.
And the 200 'fly heats: 139 swimmers, five of whom were disqualified. For their entry fees, they got to live the experience of trials - and have their races broadcast on a webcam before the paymasters flicked the switch. Next up: 124 women get set to race the 200IM heats.
After Elizabeth Pelton raised the game in heat 11 on 2:13.89, Caitlin Leverenz checked in at 2:12.38. The last prelim had 400m world champion Elizabeth Beisel on 2:13.26 a touch ahead of 2009 world champion Ariana Kukors, on 2:13.58. The semis were locked down in 2:15.75.
Meanwhile, much debate rumbling about whether Olympic swimming should go back to three per nation. It is obvious why Americans would want that and obvious too why others may not. Track and Field has three per nation. There is unlikely to be any movement on the issue in swimming as far as the IOC is concerned, the quota numbers difficult enough to juggle.
Around the world right now, shoals of swimmers from around the world await news as to whether their FINA B cut swim will be good enough to take them to the Olympic Games this summer. The cut is there in part to ensure that the numbers competing do not exceed the capacity of venues, including warm-up and changing facilities.
A compromise could be worked on, where there is a will. Why not allow any nation with three swimmers ranked in the world top 10 by a deadline 6 weeks or so out to have three eligible for the Games, for example? A blanket three per nation would simply swell the meet to bursting point.
At World-Championship, there would be scope and good argument to extend that thought to this: any ranked among the top 10 in the world a month or so before (the US would want it closer than that to account for its tradition of last-moment trials) the main event have an automatic right of entry. After that, it would be business as usual.
Lots of options in the midst of that discussion but it would be great to see the Olympic Games and certainly World Championships provide incentives for those who are truly among the very best on the planet (top 10) but may find themselves locked out by virtue of their birth. That status is accounted for at the low end of the order for developing nations - so why not provide similar consideration to the pointy end of the sport?
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