OMAHA, Neb. Katie Hoff and Michael Phelps easily qualified in their events at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Tuesday, while Ryan Lochte dropped out of an evening showdown with Phelps in the 200-meter freestyle.
Lochte's decision seemingly clears the way for Phelps to win his second individual event of the trials. Lochte had the fastest qualifying time in the 200 free, and Phelps was second-quickest. Without Lochte, Phelps faces a lesser field that includes training partners Peter Vanderkaay and Erik Vendt, and two-time Olympian Klete Keller.
Lochte wants to concentrate on the 100 backstroke final, which comes 21 minutes after the 200 free final. Phelps already had dropped the 100 back from his busy schedule.
Lochte has yet to officially make the Olympic team, although he is likely on it after finishing second to Phelps in the 400 individual medley Sunday.
Phelps had an easy morning, with the 200 butterfly prelims his only race. He was third-quickest, trailing Club Wolverine training partner Davis Tarwater in 1 minute, 55.15 seconds and second-place Gil Stovall, whose time was 1:55.72.
Phelps touched in 1:55.85, just off what he and coach Bob Bowman had wanted.
"We were talking about swimming 1:55.07 or 1:55.08," he said.
Hoff began a busy day by qualifying fastest in the 200 free preliminaries.
Her time of 1:57.72 bettered the 16-year-old trials record and was four-hundredths of a second ahead of Allison Schmitt.
Also advancing to the evening semifinals were 2004 Olympians Kara Lynn Joyce and Dana Vollmer, former world championship team members Kim Vandenberg and Lacey Nymeyer, and 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel, who has already made the Olympic team.
Two-time Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno didn't advance, finishing 36th out of 103 swimmers, although the 200 free is not one of her main events. She also didn't make the 400 IM final on opening night, four years after winning a silver medal at the Athens Games.
Hoff, the first swimmer to make the U.S. team in two events, returned later in the morning for the 200 individual medley. Again, she was the fastest qualifier, winning her heat in 2:12.02.
American recordholder Natalie Coughlin was second-fastest in 2:12.21. She dipped under world-record pace on the backstroke leg, her best stroke, but couldn't sustain it. Sandeno and Amanda Beard, seeking her fourth Olympic berth, also made the 16-woman evening semifinals.
Lochte figures he's already done enough to earn a spot on the 800 free relay team in Beijing, so he is focusing on the 100 back to give himself a chance in another individual event.
Phelps said he and Lochte had discussed the move, but that he was disappointed not to renew their 200 free rivalry.
"But he's definitely going be a big part of that relay this summer," Phelps said. "I'm definitely wishing him good luck tonight."
Asked how he celebrated his 23rd birthday Monday, Phelps replied, "Ate and slept. That's about it."