After two days of simply watching, Michael Phelps finally entered the water at the 2016 U.S. Olympic swim trials Tuesday morning at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, winning his preliminary heat of the 200-meter butterfly.

Michael Phelps Wins Preliminary 200-Meter Butterfly Heat At U.S. Olympic Trials

Phelps, who will be 31 on Thursday, finished in 1 minute, 56.68 seconds — the fastest that morning– and was 0.22 seconds ahead of Pace Clark. 

“My third turn was bad, awful,” said Phelps, who is seeking his fifth Olympic appearance. “Killed all the momentum. I felt like I didn’t really use much legs, dragging them through the way. But it’s something to build off of. We’ll see.”

Chase Kalisz, Phelps’ protege, also advanced. The 22-year-old already made the team by winning the 400 individual medley Sunday. Tyler Clary, who came second to Phelps at the 2012 trials, advanced with the sixth-fastest time.


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In each of his four previous appearances at Olympic trials, Phelps competed in the 400 IM on the meet’s first day. Nevertheless, he has not competed in that challenging event since finishing fourth at the London Olympics in 2012.

The veteran swimmer had originally been entered in Monday’s 200-meter freestyle, but later scratched in order to concentrate on the 200 fly, where he has the top four performances in the race’s history.

“I just wanted to swim,” Phelps said. “That was the most annoying part: having to wait this long. But I’m happy to get the first one out of the way and just keep going.”

Last year at the U.S. Nationals in San Antonio, he finished with the year’s fastest time in the 200 fly at 1:52.94. He will seek to edge closer to that mark in Tuesday night’s semifinals.

On the women’s side, 19-year-old Katie Ledecky, who already qualified for the Rio Olympics in the 400 freestyle, easily advanced to the semifinals of the 200-meter freestyle with a time of 1:55.60. Leah Smith finished second in 1:56.47. For the second time this meet, Smith closed on Ledecky. She finished almost a second behind her in 1:56.47, but began to creep up on her hip during the last 50 after Ledecky rocketed to a body-length and change lead at the 100.

Missy Franklin, 21, one of the stars of the 2012 Olympics, tied for seventh with Hali Flickinger in 1:58.61.

“I think I do my best when I’m given a big challenge, and tonight I’m really going to have a big challenge ahead of me,” said Franklin, who won four golds and a bronze four years ago at the London Games. “My warm-ups have been feeling really great. I think I’m trying a little bit too hard and thinking a little bit too much. It’s just about trusting myself and just letting it happen.”

Defending Olympic champion Allison Schmitt qualified fourth-fastest for the 200 free semis in 1:57.77.

OMAHA, NE – JUNE 28: Michael Phelps competes in a semi-final heat of the Men’s 200 Meter Butterfly during Day 3 of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 28, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

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