Phelps, Lochte set up 200m medley showdown

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will compete for the 200m individual medley final at the US Swimming Olympic trials after winning their respective semifinals on Thurday.

Michael Phelps has already qualified for the US Olympic team after winning the men's 200m butterfly final at the trials.   -  AP

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, taking their long rivalry into its last lap, set up a mouthwatering 200m individual medley clash with semifinal wins at the US Olympic swimming trials on Thursday. Phelps, who counts three straight 200m medley golds among his astonishing 18 Olympic triumphs, cruised home to win the first semifinal in 1min 57.61sec.

He'll be seeded second in the final after Lochte won the second semi in 1:56.71. That vaulted Lochte to second in the 2016 world rankings to Phelps's fourth - promising fireworks in a final with two Rio de Janeiro Olympic berths on the line.

"It's going to be good," Phelps predicted. "We're going to go out and probably step on the gas a little bit more. You'll have an exciting race."

Phelps said he had plenty in the tank for Friday, when he and Lochte will both also contest the 100m butterfly. "It wasn't like a full, all-out swim," said Phelps, who looked relaxed and gave a wave when the crowd acknowledged his 31st birthday with a post-race cheer.

"I wanted to win my heat."

Lochte, nursing a groin injury suffered in Sunday's 400m medley heats, said he could feel it on the breaststroke leg. "It was easier than this morning," said Lochte, who is battling the pain with over the counter anti-inflammatory medication and massage. "The first part of the breaststroke felt good ... then it started hurting more and more."

Injury not an excuse

Phelps said he doesn't think the injury will slow Lochte by much. "Even if he is hurt he's not going to let anything be an excuse," Phelps said.

Lochte, who has yet to qualify for an individual event in Rio, certainly will want to keep the pressure on in a rivalry the two hope will take them to another Olympic podium in Brazil. Although both are entered in the 100m fly, Lochte acknowledges that's more of a "fun" event for him rather than a chance to seriously challenge Phelps.

The medley is another story.

Lochte, 31, is the 200m medley world record-holder and 2015 world champion. But he took silver behind Phelps in the event in the 2004 and 2012 Olympics and settled for bronze in 2008 when the 200m Individual Medley was among Phelps's glittering haul of eight golds in Beijing.

"I've been racing against him in this event since 2003," Lochte said. "I just love racing against him because it's a challenge. It's one of the greatest rivalries in sports."

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