OMAHA, Neb. -- Michael Phelps 2, Ryan Lochte 1.
In their most stirring duel of the U.S. Olympic trials, Phelps and Lochte went stroke for stroke in the 200-meter individual medley Saturday night.
But Phelps led at every turn, and he turned it on at the end to edge Lochte with a time of 1 minute, 54.84 seconds -- 0.09 seconds ahead of the runner-up and the fastest time in the world this year.
"It feels good to be back on that side, but I'm sure that's not going to be the end of us going back and forth," Phelps said. "I'm just happy to be able to have a good race like that, kind of fold it all together."
For Phelps, it was an emphatic message on his 27th birthday that he intends to turn his final Olympics into another major medal haul. For Lochte, it was a gutsy performance coming just a half-hour after he won a grueling 200 backstroke.
"The best thing about swimming is racing and stepping up against the world's best," Lochte said before he returned for his third race of the night, the semifinals of the 100 butterfly.
Lochte finished third in his heat and set up one final race with Phelps today.
Phelps, a two-time defending Olympic champion in the 100 fly, advanced to the final with the other fastest time of 2012, powering away to win his heat in 51.35. Lochte tied for the sixth-fastest time in the semifinals (52.47), but this isn't one of his specialties.
Lochte seemed to have Phelps' number when he beat him twice at the world championships, then kept the dominance going with a convincing win on the first night of the trials in the 400 individual medley.
But Phelps edged Lochte in the 200 freestyle, and now he has two wins in a row against the only swimmer who seems capable of preventing him from making another serious run at eight gold medals in London.
In other events on the sixth night of the trials, Jessica Hardy won the 100 freestyle. Missy Franklin, 17, moved a step closer to having a seven-event program in London, finishing second behind Hardy in 54.15, while 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin missed out on her final realistic chance at an individual Olympic race.
Coughlin finished sixth, the last spot that can earn a possible berth on the 400 freestyle relay.
Rebecca Soni locked up a second individual race in London, cruising to an easy win in the 200 breaststroke. Soni surged to the lead on the second lap and steadily pulled away, winning with the fastest time in the world this year, 2: 21.13.
"I'm always a little nervous to push it too soon. I felt great the first 100, nice and long," Soni, who will be looking to defend her 200 Olympic title.
Micah Lawrence is heading to the Olympics for the first time, taking second place in 2:23.03. But Amanda Beard, 30, missed out on making a fifth Olympic team, fading to sixth (2:26.42).
Lochte, 27, of Florida got started on his busy night by winning the 200 back. He was sixth at the first turn, but he quickly moved toward the front and took the lead for good with a brilliant flip turn off the final wall.
Pulling away, he won with a time of 1:54.54, second-fastest in the world this year behind Japan's Ryosuke Irie.
Tyler Clary took second in 1:54.88, giving him two individual races at the Olympics. He has bounced back just fine from the disappointment of finishing third behind Lochte and Phelps in the 400 IM.
Phelps and Lochte are both assured of at least four individual events in London, and it would take a major upset for Phelps to miss out on a spot in the 100 fly.
At the start of the evening, Anthony Ervin was the top qualifier in the 50 freestyle semifinals with a time of 21.74. Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones, who went 1-2 in the 100 free the previous night, also advanced to the final tonight.