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Michael Phelps swims to win in final U.S. race at trials

By Steve Beideck, The Sports Xchange
Michael Phelps swims to win in final U.S. race at trials
Michael Phelps. UPI/Jim Ruymen | License Photo

OMAHA, Neb. -- Starting in Lane 7 was not going to stop Michael Phelps from finishing first in his final swimming race on American soil.

The five-time Olympian won his third event at the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, touching first in the 100-meter butterfly in 51.00 seconds in what Phelps said was his best race of the eight-day meet.

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"Probably, (but) it was a terrible finish," Phelps said. "It was a little long, but I said to Bob (Bowman) -- he asked me what the game plan was tonight and I said, 'I don't want to lose my last race on American soil.

"So that was kind of in my head."

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Phelps was in the head of the other seven contestants as they knew the 31-year-old icon, the winner of 18 career Olympic gold medals and the defending Olympic champion in the event, wanted to go out on top. He also won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly during this week's trials at CenturyLink Center.

Through the first half of the race, it looked like Phelps might not accomplish his goal. He was fourth at the 50-meter turn in 24.06 behind Seth Stubblefield, Tim Phillips and Matthew Josa.

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Eventual runner-up Tom Shields, who finished in 51.20, had even more ground to make up as he was in seventh place at 24.30. Phelps and Shields were the only ones to break 27 seconds in the second half -- Shields at 26.90 and Phelps in 26.94.

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Phelps and Phillips also went 1-2 in the 100 butterfly, making a formidable duo to medal in both events in Rio. Phelps is now No. 2 in the world and Shields No. 3 in 2016 behind Laszlo Cseh of Hungary.

Saturday's winning time was considerably faster than the marks that Phelps posted in Friday's prelims (51.87) and semifinals (51.83). While his winning time was a nice drop, he said there's still plenty of work to do before the Rio Games begin Aug. 6.

"You know, there's been a lot of history here," Phelps said. "So 51.0 is OK, but it's going to take more than that to win a gold medal."

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Maya DiRado and Katie Ledecky also won their third gold medals of the meet.

DiRado beat Missy Franklin to the wall in the 200 backstroke and Ledecky posted the third-best time in history in the 800 freestyle by winning in 8:10.32.

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This is DiRado's last season of swimming, and she was nearly one full second ahead of the defending Olympic champion and world record-holder, winning in 2:06.90. Franklin was second in 2:07.89.

"I'm having so much fun and I think it's freeing to be able to swim like this," DiRado said. "Someone made the comment: This is the last time we will be wearing these caps, so I wanted to go out and have a great last race for Stanford."

Ledecky was on world-record pace much of the race before posting her second time in the 8:10 range this week. Leah Smith was second in 8:20.18. Ledecky and Smith also went 1-2 in the 400 freestyle.

"I felt good with it," Ledecky said. "I got the job done, punched my ticket. I would have liked to have been faster, but I could kind of tell during the race that it wasn't going to be much faster than yesterday."

Nathan Adrian completed the sprint sweep by winning the men's 50 freestyle in 21.51, 0.01 of a second ahead of silver medalist Anthony Ervin. In 2012, Adrian won the 100 freestyle but finished third in the 50 and wasn't able to compete in that race in London.

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Connor Jaeger emerged as the top qualifier in the men's 1,500 freestyle after being the only contestant to touch in below 15 minutes (14:58.59).

Jordan Wilimovsky was second in 15:05.89 and Michael McBroom third in 15:07.42.

Abbey Weitzeil is looking to take the same sprint sweep that Adrian earned when she steps to the blocks Sunday as the fastest qualifier in the 50 freestyle.

Racing next to top qualifier Madison Kennedy, Weitzeil posted the sixth-fastest time in the world this year, winning in 24.34. Kennedy is No. 7 with her personal best of 24.39. Simone Manuel, Olivia Smoliga and Katrina Konopka also touched in under 25 seconds.

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