Ryan Lochte gave himself one more thing to do in Rio Friday night, finishing second to Michael Phelps in the 200 individual medley in the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb.
That performance gave Lochte – now a four-time Olympian – a spot in an individual event at the 2016 Olympics. Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, already had qualified to swim in the 4x200 relay but was down to his final try in his attempt to qualify in an individual event.
While Lochte’s SwimMAC Carolina team did not add to its record total of six U.S. Olympians Friday night, several members of the Charlotte club’s Team Elite set themselves up Friday for a possible Olympic berth on Saturday.
Veteran Cullen Jones, 32, had the third-fastest time in the 50 freestyle semifinals. But Jones finished more than three-tenths of a second behind Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian in the shortest race of the Trials, also known as the “splash and dash.”
Jones will need to beat at least one of those two men to finish in the top two Saturday night and make his third Olympic team. Also qualifying for Saturday’s eight-man final and the accompanying chance at Brazil: SwimMAC’s Jimmy Feigen (fourth-fastest) and Charlotte’s Michael Chadwick (seventh). Chadwick now swims at the University of Missouri.
Matthew Josa, 21, is a Queens University standout who is well-known in the Charlotte swimming community after leading Queens to a NCAA Division II championship in 2015 but is not well-known in the U.S. at large.
Josa, though, startled the Olympic Trials by finishing first in the preliminaries and then fifth in the semifinals of the 100 butterfly Friday. Josa redshirted this year at Queens so he could concentrate on swimming and trying to make the Olympic team.
In the same race as Josa, SwimMAC’s Tim Phillips won a semifinal heat which also featured Phelps in a time of 51.28 seconds. Phillips’ time ranked as one of the five fastest times in the world this year in the event – Josa swam the event in 51.72 in the semifinals. Both Josa and Phillips will be in the final Saturday night, competing for a top-two spot and Olympic berth.
Lochte’s race with Phelps was possibly the last time the two will swim against each other in America. They are both 31. Phelps has earned a spot on his fifth Olympic team; Lochte has made his fourth. They remain good friends as well as rivals. Lochte gave Phelps a “flat tire” on his shoe on their walk out to the starting blocks, which made Phelps chuckle about Lochte trying to sabotage him.
“Every time I race against him, win or lose, we have that good friendship going,” Lochte told NBC afterward.
The Olympic Trials can also be a heartbreaking meet, and SwimMAC’s Tyler Clary experienced that on Friday. Before he joined SwimMAC, in 2012, Clary won an individual gold medal in the men’s 200 backstroke. Clary had narrowly missed the 2016 team once already in these Trials, and his last chance to make the team would come in the same 200 backstroke event.
This time, though, Clary finished third – the cruelest spot in the meet, because only the top two make the team. The two men who beat him – Cal-Berkeley teammates Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley, who now become Olympic teammates – both gave Clary a consoling hug after the event. N.C. State swimmer Hennessey Stuart also made the 200 back final and finished eighth.