By Steve Keating
OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) – The unheralded enjoyed the spotlight at the U.S. Olympic swim trials on Tuesday but it is back to the shadows as Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky prepare to take center stage at the U.S. Olympic swim trials.
Newcomers Townley Haas, Olivia Smoliga, Lilly King and Ryan Murphy all punched their tickets to the Rio Games at the expense of some familiar names with brilliant wins on a wild night at the CenturyLink Centre.
But business as usual is expected to resume on Wednesday with Phlelps gunning for a spot on a fifth Olympic team and Ledecky in blistering form.
Phelps signaled on Tuesday that he is ready for Rio with two controlled, dominating swims in the 200 meters butterfly.
After posting the top time in the morning preliminaries Phelps followed up with an equally impressive effort in the evening semi-finals, in the event he won in Athens and Beijing but surrendered to Chad le Clos at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I don’t even know half of them,” said Phelps about all the new faces that could be his Rio team mates. “I think it’s good for the sport.
“I think it’s interesting and also exciting just to have new faces who are really pumped up to come up into the sport.
“I think that’s a good thing to see as I’m on my way out.”
A few of Phelps’ former Olympic team mates are now familiar with the new names, as gold medal winners Jessica Hardy, Missy Franklin, Matt Grevers, Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Locthe were all left in the wake of the newcomers on Tuesday.
Phelps will be wary of falling victim to the young guns in his final, such as 18-year-old Zach Harting and 19-year-old Andrew Seliskar.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m the only 30-year-old swimming in this event’,” said Phelps, world record holder in the 200 fly. “That’s awesome, and in two days I will be 31.”
Younger swimmers eager to pull off an upset will not be a concern for Ledecky, still a teenager and already the dominant force in women’s swimming.
The 19-year-old secured her Olympic spot on Monday winning the 400 free with the third fastest swim ever in the event and will be expected to add the 200 free to her Rio dance card on Wednesday after dominating the heats and semi-finals.
“We’ve worked a lot on my turns and those are feeling really good, both going in and coming out,” said Ledecky, world champion in the 200 free. “Keep those the same and swim a little harder I think it will be good tomorrow.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)