Big names in spotlight at action-packed US swimming trials

Big names in spotlight at action-packed US swimming trials
Big names in spotlight at action-packed US swimming trials

Omaha (United States) (AFP) - US swimming's biggest names were in the spotlight on the penultimate day of the Olympic trials on Saturday, with Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin gunning for Rio Games berths.

Madison Kennedy topped the heat times in the women's 50m free in 24.52sec. Connor Jaeger, Rio-bound as the winner of the 400m free, topped the 1,500m free heats in 14min 58.59sec in a curtain-raiser for an action-packed evening session.

Phelps, whose 22 Olympic medals include a remarkable 18 gold, had work to do to punch his ticket in the 100m butterfly after posting just the sixth-fastest semi-final time on Friday.

"Lane two or seven? First time in that lane so that should be fun," said Phelps, whose legs were aching after swimming the 100m fly semis less than half an hour after winning the 200m individual medley final.

Such doubles were commonplace in Phelps's heyday -- a necessary challenge in the multiple medal campaigns of which his eight-gold performance at Beijing in 2008 was the zenith.

With a milestone fifth trip to the Olympics secured by wins in the 200m fly as well as medley, Phelps will be trying to overcome his lowly seeding and give himself a chance at a fourth consecutive 100m fly Olympic gold.

Ledecky, who booked 200m and 400m freestyle berths in Rio with victories this week, signaled her intentions in the 800m free heats with a time of 8:10.91 -- the third fastest time in history.

"It felt really easy," said Ledecky, whose world record of 8:06.68 could be under threat on Saturday. "Bodes well for (Saturday)."

Franklin is vying for a chance to defend the 200m backstroke title she won in London. The golden girl of 2012 has endured an up-and-down trials, earning an individual Rio berth with a runner-up finish in the 200m free but faltering with a seventh-placed finish in the 100m back -- one of two individual titles she lifted in London.

The men's 50m free final is also on tap Saturday with 35-year-old Anthony Ervin topping the times with a sizzling semi-final swim of 21.55. Reigning Olympic 100m free gold medalist Nathan Adrian was second-quickest in 21.60.