Weber-Gale leads 100 free qualifying with record
OMAHA, Neb. ” Jason Lezak and Garrett Weber-Gale set back-to-back American records in the 100-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, with Michael Phelps going under 48 seconds Wednesday.
Phelps’ time of 47.92 seconds should lock up his spot on the 400 free relay in Beijing. Having accomplished that goal, he promptly dropped out of the evening semifinals.
“He was trying to break 48 and he did. That sets him up nicely for the relay and hopefully answers some questions,” Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman said. “Clearly, I think Michael should be on the relays. We wanted to just kind of relieve any controversy.”
Bowman said Phelps wasn’t tempted to continue on in the 100 free because that race and his 200 butterfly final are about 20 minutes apart Wednesday night.
“That double is cruel and unusual,” Bowman said. “He could do it, but I wouldn’t ask anybody to do it.”
Phelps may decide to drop the 200 backstroke, which begins Thursday with prelims.
“Things are going kind of well, so we’ll see,” Bowman said. “Our program is looking good.”
Lezak, a 32-year-old from Irvine, Calif., won his heat in 48.15, bettering his old mark of 48.17 set four years ago at the trials in Long Beach, Calif.
Lezak was talking to reporters when Weber-Gale erased his mark.
“Hey, records are made to be broken,” he said. “As long as I’m 1-2 tomorrow, that’s the goal. I’m still getting better. Who knows what’s going to happen after this?”
In the next heat, Weber-Gale of Milwaukee went even lower, touching in 47.78. That made him the leading qualifier for the 16-man semifinals.
“I knew it was going to be really fast in there,” he said. “I knew I had to do something. … Before I got out of the car, my dad said, ‘Swim your own race.’ I did that. I just couldn’t be happier.”
Four years ago, Weber-Gale finished seventh at the trials.
“I have more confidence now in my life,” he said. “I think I’m going to start doing some good swims.”
World champion Ben Wildman-Tobriner was fourth-fastest, ahead of Matt Grevers and Cullen Jones, who finished in 48.71.
Ryan Lochte’s time of 48.88 was ninth-best, and he said he wasn’t sure if he would remain in the event.
Lochte dropped out of Tuesday’s 200 free final ” where he was the fastest qualifier and could have raced Phelps again ” to give himself a better shot to qualify in the 100 backstroke that night.
The move backfired when he finished third, one spot out of making the Olympic team.
“We looked at it and it was like whatever happened, happened. It doesn’t matter now,” Lochte said. “That race is over and I’ve just got to focus on today.”
He still has hopes of being chosen for the 800 free relay team in Beijing.
“My time is still second in the 200 free, so hopefully that will make a strong relay,” Lochte said. “I did my best and that’s all I can ask for.”
Jones, the silver medalist behind Wildman-Tobriner at worlds, bent over several times to catch his breath afterward.
“I’m really happy with my time,” he said. “I definitely didn’t back up. It was a best time.”
Ian Crocker was disqualified for a false start, similar to what happened at last year’s world championships.
“I think it was a flinching foot again,” he said. “I’m happy to have a race down and the time was good. That was the focus.”
Last year in Australia, Crocker dove in too early on an exchange in the 400 medley relay preliminaries, causing the Americans to be DQ’d. That derailed Phelps’ chance at an eighth gold medal in Melbourne.
Two-time Olympian Neil Walker, who along with Lezak are the oldest men in the field at 32, moved on.
Katie Hoff had a rare morning off, but she’ll be busy in the evening with finals in the 200 free and 200 individual medley. The 19-year-old from Towson, Md., could lock up her third and fourth individual spots on the Olympic team with victories.
Elaine Breeden, already on the U.S. team after finishing second in the 100 fly, was the leading qualifier in the 200 fly. Her time of 2 minutes, 7.72 seconds would have won the bronze medal four years ago in Athens.
Also advancing to the evening semifinals were Tanya Krisman, Kim Vandenberg, Kathleen Hersey and Mary Descenza.
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