OMAHA, Neb. — After being on the sidelines for two days, Michael Phelps was ready to go and it showed.
The 18-time Olympic champion advanced to the semifinals of the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. swimming trials Tuesday with the fastest time in the preliminaries. Phelps led all way, touching in 1 minute, 56.68 seconds.
His first race on Day 3 of the eight-day meet drew the loudest cheers of the morning session.
“That was the most annoying part, I think. Having to wait this long,” he said. “But I’m happy to get the first one underway and just keep going from there.”
Also advancing to the evening semis was Pace Clark, second fastest in 1:56.90, and Jack Conger, third quickest at 1:57.33.
Chase Kalisz, Phelps’ protege who already made the team by winning the 400 individual medley Sunday, moved on as did Tyler Clary, who was second to Phelps at the 2012 trials.
Phelps is seeking his fifth Olympic appearance and first as a father. The avid golfer noted world No. 1 Jason Day has decided not to compete in Rio de Janeiro, where golf is making its return to the games.
“Nobody wants to go,” he said. “But hopefully I get to go soon.”
Like Phelps, Katie Ledecky had an easy swim in reaching the semis of the 200 freestyle in pursuit of a second event for the Rio Games. The Maryland teenager led the prelims in 1:55.60. She already is on the team in the 400 free.
“I’ve definitely gained a lot of speed the last couple of months. That’s been showing in these races,” Ledecky said. “I’ve put some more focus on these shorter races so I can be a big part of those relays and also compete individually.”
The top six finishers in the 100 and 200 freestyles typically make the team and comprise the relay pool of candidates.
Leah Smith, who also made the team by finishing second to Ledecky in the 400 free Monday, was second quickest in 1:56.47.
Missy Franklin tied for seventh with Hali Flickinger in 1:58.61. Franklin faces a busy night. She will swim the 200 free semifinals shortly before 8 p.m. EDT and return about 15 minutes later for the 100 backstroke final in a bid to make her second straight Olympic team. She won four golds and a bronze four years ago at the London Games.
“I think I do my best when I’m given a big challenge, and tonight I’m really going to have a big challenge ahead of me,” she said. “My warmups have been feeling really great. I think I’m trying a little bit too hard and thinking a little bit too much. It’s just about trusting myself and just letting it happen.”
After creating a splash in London, Franklin attended college for two years before turning pro. She has talked about the challenges of balancing sponsor demands, photo shoots, appearances and travel with training in her home state of Colorado.
“It’s a different kind of pressure for sure,” she said.
Defending Olympic champion Allison Schmitt qualified as fourth fastest for the 200 free semis in 1:57.77.