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With Trials looming, swimmers back off at major meets

With exactly three weeks before the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, Olympic gold medalists at nationwide meets backed off their signature events. Michael Phelps didn’t swim the 200m individual medley at a competition in Austin, Texas and Nathan Adrian skipped the 100m freestyle in Santa Clara, California. Each meet is considered the swimmers’ final tune-ups leading to Trials, held June 26 to July 3 in Omaha, Nebraska.

June 5 also marks exactly two months before the 2016 Olympic Games open in Rio de Janeiro.

Other highlights from the meets spread across the U.S. on Sunday night:

  • Missy Franklin and Matt Grevers win 100m backstroke titles in Austin, Texas
  • Australians and reigning world champions Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin win signature events in Santa Clara
  • Michael Phelps scratches last race in Austin
  • Ryan Lochte looking forward to resting in lead-up to Trials
  • Natalie Coughlin commits to racing the 100m backstroke at Trials during broadcast

The top U.S. men at the Arena Pro Series stop in Santa Clara all scratched the 100m freestyle: Adrian, Anthony Ervin and Conor Dwyer. Adrian clocked 48.17 this morning, followed by Dwyer in 49.66 in third place and Ervin in sixth with 49.87.

With the field open, Australia’s James Magnussen – who won silver in 2012 but is not swimming the 100m freestyle individually at the Rio Olympics – beat his teenage Olympic teammate Kyle Chalmers with a time of 48.99 compared to Chalmers’ 49.16.

Caitlin Leverenz won the 200m individual medley in a time of 2:11.65 in California, the event in which she earned a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. She told NBC swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines in a post-race interview that she’ll be fine-tuning a few things in the coming weeks before her third Olympic Trials.

Brazil’s Thiago Pereira won the 200m IM in what he called a “total surprise” time of 1:57.77, faster than he swam at Brazil’s Olympic Trials. The time was good enough to move up to third in the world rankings for 2016.

Australian swimmers won a handful of events in Santa Clara, including Jessica Ashwood in the 800m freestyle in 8:18.14, an Australian national record; Emily Seebohm in the 200m backstroke in a time of 2:08.57, where she is the reigning world champion; Mitch Larkin in the 200m backstroke in 1:55.38, which he won at Worlds in 2015; and Emma McKeon in the 100m freestyle. Canada’s Ryan Cochrane won the 1500m freestyle in 15:09.97.

“The times weren’t what I was looking for, but you really have to approach this meet like a progress report,” 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin said on the broadcast. “A lot of us are in that weird time where… you feel out of sorts [leading to Trials].”

Coughlin also committed to swimming the 100m backstroke at Trials, even though she didn’t swim it at the Santa Clara meet. She owns two Olympic gold medals (2004 and 2008) in the 100m backstroke, two of her 12 medals.

“The one [medal] that’s the most memorable is defending my [100m backstroke] gold medal in 2008,” she told Gaines.

Connor Jaeger won the 1500m freestyle at the Arena Pro Swim in Indianapolis in a time of 15:28.34, well off the Worlds silver medal-winning time of 14:41.20 he clocked last August.

Olympic hopeful Leah Smith won the 800m freestyle in a time of 8:24.87, her third win of the competition. She was just off the time she’s entered in for the 800m at Trials: 8.24.74, clocked at a competition just under a year ago.

Other U.S. winners in Indianapolis included Melanie Margalis (200m individual medley), Jay Litherland (200m IM) and Erin Voss (200m backstroke).

The Bahamas’ Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace won the 50m freestyle and Arkady Vyatchanin claimed the 200m backstroke title.

Missy Franklin won the 100m backstroke at a meet in Austin, Texas in a time of 1:00.50. She won gold in the event at the 2012 London Olympics. The men’s Olympic champion, Matt Grevers, also won the 100m backstroke Sunday night in Texas in a time of 53.48.

Michael Phelps swam in the morning preliminary session in Austin, clocking 2:05.89 in the 200m individual medley to finish fifth. He did not race in the final, which was won by David Nolan in 1:59.40. He returned home to Arizona, posting a picture of himself, his fiancée Nicole Johnson and their son Boomer.

Two-time Olympic medalist Elizabeth Beisel won the preliminary session of the 200m backstroke at a meet in Tennessee in 2:13.50, but was disqualified in the final.

At that same meet, Olympic sprinting hopeful Caeleb Dressel clocked a 22.09 to win the 50m freestyle.

Illustrating the point of swimmers backing off even further, after a competition Saturday, Ryan Lochte told Swimming World that taper – when swimmers rest in anticipation for a large swim meet, such as Trials or the Olympics – couldn’t come soon enough.

“I need it. I am hurting,” he said after winning the meet’s 100m breaststroke and 200m freestyle.