Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Jessica Hardy was the leading qualifier in the 50-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on Sunday, while Dara Torres had the fifth-fastest time in her bid to make a record sixth Olympic team at 45.
Hardy won the last of 16 heats in 24.55 seconds on Sunday morning while swimming next to Torres, who touched second at 25.00.
"It's really fun to race her. She brings out a level of excitement," said Hardy, the surprise winner of the 100 free on Saturday night after failing to make the team in her 100 breaststroke specialty. "She's an inspiration. She's in better shape physically than all of us."
Torres is competing in just one event at trials after winning three silver medals four years ago in Beijing. She would be the first American to swim in six Olympics if she finishes in the top two of Monday's final.
Her appearance on the deck was greeted with big cheers and shouts of "Let's go, Dara!" before she stepped on the blocks. Torres bent over and rested her hands on her knees before getting into her starting position.
After Beijing, she took 16 months off for a radical surgery on her left knee that involved cutting her left shin, adjusting it to a new position under the kneecap and inserting cartilage that took up to a year to fully develop.
Torres has retired twice before, including one stretch that lasted seven years between the 1992 and 2000 Olympics.
Christine Magnuson, trying to make her second Olympic team, qualified second at 24.75. Two-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce and Madison Kennedy tied for third at 24.93.
Amanda Weir, back on the Olympic team for the first time since 2004, was eighth.
Among the 16 swimmers — mostly 20-somethings — moving on to the evening semifinals was Erika Erndl. The 34-year-old former North Carolina swimmer was 13th. She has competed at trials before and didn't make the team.
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