OMAHA, Neb. – Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau were the favorites.
The race was a different matter.
In another major breaststroke upset, Scott Weltz won the 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Friday night, leaving Hansen and Shanteau with only one individual event at the London Games.
On a night when Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were focused on getting through semifinal races, Nathan Adrian won the 100 freestyle and Cullen Jones claimed the second spot for London, while Natalie Coughlin barely kept alive her last chance to make it back to the Olympics.
But the men’s 200 breast was the real stunner, just as shocking as the women’s 100 breast, which was won by Breeja Larson over Rebecca Soni and Jessica Hardy. At least Soni got second place, still good enough for a do-over in the Olympics.
Neither Hansen nor Shanteau were as fortunate.
“My whole body was kind of tingling and I was like, ‘I’m feeling it and something is different, this is the time,’ ” Weltz said. “I was smiling behind the blocks, I wasn’t nervous. I felt great going into it.”
Clark Burckle claimed the second spot on the Olympic team, another big surprise. Shanteau finished third and Hansen faded to fourth, the two of them forced to settle for only swimming the 100 breast in London after going 1-2 in that event at the trials.
“I think you guys are as surprised as I am,” Hansen said. “I can’t believe Eric and I are not swimming the 200.”
Coughlin hung on in her bid to make it back to a third Olympics and take a shot at tying Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated female Olympians in U.S. history.
Having already missed out in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, Coughlin is down to her final realistic chance in the 100 freestyle. She barely got out of the semifinals, finishing sixth in her heat but seventh overall to qualify for Saturday night’s final. Amanda Weir was the fastest qualifier in 54.14, followed by Missy Franklin (54.19) and Allison Schmitt (54.23).
On a busy night. Lochte cruised through the semis of the 200 backstroke with the fastest time at 1:55.73. Tyler Clary was next (1:55.88) in what looks like a two-man race.
Lochte returned less than an hour later for the semifinals of the 200 individual medley, which was Phelps’ only event of the night.
Racing side-by-side again, Lochte was top qualifier again with the fastest time in the world this year (1:55.51), while Phelps was about a body length behind (1:56.66).
“I knew he kind of took off, so I was like I probably should save something for tomorrow,” Phelps said. “I kind of shut it down once the race was kind of over.”
They will be right next to each other again tonight in the finals, their final showdown on the trials.
They’ve each won a head-to-head meeting, a tantalizing glimpse of what awaits at the meet that really matters in London.
“Those were pretty solid swims,” said Lochte, who will have only about a 20-minute break between races in the finals. “I’m up for that challenge. It’s something I’ve been doing for four years now: challenging myself. I’m definitely ready.”
In the night’s other final, Cammile Adams pulled away to win the 200 butterfly in 2:06.52. Kathleen Hersey claimed the second Olympic berth (2:07.72), more than a second ahead of third-place finisher Kim Vandenberg.
Teresa Crippen, sister of the late Fran Crippen, was fourth. She had hoped to make the Olympics to help carry on the dream of her brother, who died in an open-water race in 2010.
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