Michael Phelps made history Wednesday night at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, winning the 200-meter butterfly final to become the first American male swimmer to qualify for five Olympic Games.
Phelps, who finished in 1:54.84, looked up at the scoreboard and held up his open hand to recognize his fifth trip to the Games. Tom Shields finished second (1:55.81) to book his first Olympic trip.
“I think that means the most tonight,” Phelps said, pausing to compose himself. “Just being able to finish how I want to is so important to me. Getting on this team is what I wanted to do.”
Phelps will get a chance to add to the already staggering amount of hardware he’s accumulated at the last four Olympics: 18 golds and 22 medals overall. Going along for the ride this time is his first child, 7-week-old Boomer, who watched from the stands in the arms of his mom. The infant wore noise-canceling headphones adorned with American flags so he wouldn’t be startled by the huge roar that went up when his daddy touched the wall first.
Phelps reflected on his stumbles since London, most notably a second drunken driving arrest that prompted him to take a whole new look at his life. He reconnected with his long-estranged father, got engaged, gave up alcohol and committed himself to closing his career with a flourish.
“With everything that’s happened and being able to come back, that was probably harder than any swim I’ve had in my life,” Phelps said. “It’s probably more nerve-wracking here than it is at the Olympics.”
Earlier in the night, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin finished 1-2 in the women’s 200-meter freestyle final, locking in the second individual berth for Ledecky and the first for Franklin.
Franklin made a strong push in the final lap, rebounding after finishing seventh overall in the women’s 100 backstroke final a night earlier.
“Last night was really tough and coming back from that, I was telling myself, ‘I’m not done fighting. I’m not done with believing in myself,”’ Franklin said. “That’s probably the most proud race I’ve ever swam in my entire career, coming back from such a loss last night and telling myself that I still have it in me to do whatever I believe I can do.”
Ledecky also won the women’s 400 freestyle final, finished in 1:54.88, while Franklin clocked in at 1:56.18. Leah Smith (1:56.63) and Allison Schmitt (1:56.72) finished third and fourth to earn spots on the relay team.
Maya DiRado qualified for a second individual event at the Rio Olympics, by winning the 200-meter individual medley (2:09.54). The Stanford graduate also made the team in the 400 individual medley. DiRado plans to retire from the sport after Rio to work at the business analyst job that awaits her in Atlanta. Grabbing the second spot for Rio was Melanie Margalis, who touched in 2:10.11.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.