Anthony Ervin, 31, is looking good: 21.83 in the 50m freestyle heats for the helm of qualifiers and a shot at a return to the Olympic Games 12 years after he lifted joint gold with Gary Hall Jr (see our pic @swimnewscom) at Sydney 2000.
"Maybe I was lucky," said Ervin. "Hopefully not. Hopefully, I've got two more races like that in me."
Beyond world titles over 50m and 100m in 2001, Ervin retired in 2003 and sold his Olympic gold medal for $17,100. He donated the money to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Last year, he thought again: could I, should I? The water called him. Was it possible to be as fast again?
"I did think, 'Do I have that in me?' I wanted to believe I did, but I didn't know," Ervin said. This morning delivered the answer: a resounding yes.
His four sub-22sec efforts (all textile):
He won the 2001 world title in 22.09
This morning in Omaha, 100m winner Nathan Adrian, Ervin's training partner at California, was second through in 22.06. Cullen Jones, runner-up in the 100 free, matching Ervin 2001 with a 22.09 that tied him with Jimmy Feigen.
In other action:
In the women's 800m freestyle heats, Kate Ziegler led the way on 8:27.61 ahead of Katie Ledecky, a 15-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland, on 8:27.91, qualifiers including Chloe Sutton, a London 2012 teamster in the 400m free four years after racing the marathon in Beijing.
World champion Missy Franklin, who has the 100m free final this evening and has already made the US team for London 2012 in the 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke (two relays on the cards in the mix), started her 200m backstroke campaign on 2:08.35. Closest to her going into semis, Elizabeths Pelton and Beisel clocked 2:08.89 and 2:09.35 respectively.
The two men in the brightest spotlight this evening, Michael Phelps and Ryahn Lochte, both raced the 100m butterfly, the Olympic champion on a mission all the way to London 2012, on 51.80 this morning at the helm of all - having watched Tyler McGill post a 51.87 in the heat before him - and Ryan Lochte perhaps to show he can, on 52.21 in 6th.
Lochte has a huge day ahead of him: 200m backstroke final, then 200m medley final with Phelps, then the 100m 'fly semi. "Lochte has NOT scratched the ski of the 'fly", went the cry in the media centre. As if.