If you talked to no one besides teen star Missy Franklin, you would think competing in the high-stakes, pressure-cooker, make-or-break event that determines the U.S. Olympic swimming team represented nothing but a good time.
Franklin, 17, could barely contain her enthusiasm after posting the fastest time in the morning preliminaries of the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Tuesday, touching the wall in 59.54 seconds. Rachel Bootsma put up the second-best time, 59.69, while 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin was fifth in 1 minute, 0.71 seconds.
“It’s such an adrenaline rush,” Franklin said. “The first 50, you always feel it. . .I was a little bit nervous before that race, but now I’m really excited.”
Franklin, a junior at Regis Jesuit High in Aurora, Colo., is competing in her second Olympic trials and favored to make the Olympic team in at least four events: the 100 and 200 backstrokes and 100 and 200 freestyles. She is also entered in the 50 freestyle, which is contested on the last day of the meet next Tuesday.
She likely will be placed on all three relays, giving her the hope of contending for seven or eight Olympic medals. Franklin said she got excited staring up at the giant United States Olympic team insignia overlooking the pool during her heat.
“It felt so good just to get the first race out of the way,” she said.
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte returned to the pool later in the heats of the 200 freestyle, with Lochte posting the fastest time, 1:48.14, and Phelps finishing third overall in 1:48.31. Charlie Houchin claimed the second-best time of the morning in 1:48.15 and Potomac Falls’ Matt McLean finished fourth in 1:48.34.
On the heels of his victory over Phelps in the 400 individual medley Monday night, Lochte dominated his heat and then came back just more than an hour later for the heats of the 100 backstroke.
There he finished second overall with a time of 53.92, behind Matt Grevers, who finished in 52.94 in an earlier heat. After that race, Lochte said he was undecided about whether to swim the 100 back in the semifinals that night. He has said his schedule is fluid and will be worked out on a day-to-day basis.
“It wasn’t that bad of a double,” Lochte said about the morning pair. “The 100 back hurt worse than the two-free. The two-free just felt really smooth. I’ll decide with my coach whether I swim in the 100 back again. That’s still up in the air.”
Phelps, meantime, asked whether he hoped to contend for eight gold medals again at the 2008 Summer Games, smiled.
“It’s not an easy program,” he said. “I’m trying to do some things here; I think the biggest thing is how I hold up all week.”
In other news, distance swimming legend Janet Evans, 40, finished sixth in her 400 freestyle heat, failing to advance to the final of that event in her comeback bid, 24 years after her first Olympic Games in 1988.
Evans, who will also compete here in the 800 free, finished in 4:21.49, well out of contention.
“I wish I would have gone faster,” Evans said. “It’s nice to get the jitters out. I think my 800 will be better. It just wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but it is what it is.”
Towson’s Katie Hoff also failed to advance, finishing sixth in her heat in a time of 4:13.08 four years after winning the event at the 2008 trials, as Bethesda’s Katie Ledecky, 15, posted a strong swim to advance to the night’s final.
Ledecky finished second in her heat in 4:05.78, just behind Allison Schmitt (4:05.60).
Rebecca Soni threw down a fast time in the 200 breaststroke heats after watching Jessica Hardy, the world record holder in the event, drop a good time in the heat before. Hardy posted a time of 1:07.25 in leading her heat; Soni came back with a 1:06.33, faster than she intended.
“I expected to be around 1:07,” Soni said. “Hopefully, I got those jitters out and will feel a little bit better [in the semifinal round Tuesday night]. I’m just excited to race.”
Breeja Larson posted the second-best time of the morning, a 1:06.52.
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Tags: 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Allison Schmitt, Breeja Larson, Charlie Houchin, Janet Evans, Jessica Hardy, Katie Hoff, Katie Ledecky, Matt Grevers, Matt McLean, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Rachel Bootsma, Rebecca Soni, Ryan Lochte