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Phelps hits halfway for Olympic plan

OMAHA, Neb. - Michael Phelps is halfway home to setting his program for the Beijing Olympics.

Another world record will have to wait.

Phelps won the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S. swimming trials Wednesday night, though he looked a bit dejected after failing to break his own world record.

Not to worry.

The most important races are about a month away.

Phelps pulled away after the final flip to win in 1 minute, 52.20 seconds - just 11-hundredths over the mark of 1:52.09 he set while winning seven gold medals at last year's world championships. In the stands, his mother Debbie let out a 'Ohhhh!' when she saw his time go up.

'My butterfly has felt better this year than it ever has,' Phelps said. 'I'm not sure if I was too conservative going out. The first 100 didn't feel like it normally does. I secured a spot on the team, and that's the most important thing.'

Phelps was already on the team, of course. He has won the 400 individual medley and the 200 freestyle at the trials, the latter assuring him of a spot on the 800 freestyle relay team.

He wants to swim eight events in China, taking another shot at taking down Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Four years ago, Phelps won six golds and two bronzes in Athens.

'This gives me the opportunity to get down to it and focus on what I have to do to swim that race how I want to swim it,' he said. 'I'm not completely disappointed. It's the second-fastest time I've ever swam. But I would have liked to have been a little bit faster.'

Phelps likely assured himself of a fifth Olympic race when he posted the second-fastest time in the 100 freestyle morning preliminaries. That should be good enough to get him on the 400 free relay.

He also finalized what races he'll do at the trials, withdrawing from the 200 backstroke that begins today featuring world champion Ryan Lochte and defending Olympic champion Aaron Peirsol. Phelps will close the trials swimming the 200 individual medley - he's the world recordholder - and the 100 fly against rival Ian Crocker.

Katie Hoff, Phelps' former teammate at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, also locked up her third and fourth races in Beijing. She won the 200 free in 1:56.08, her third individual title of the meet and also enough to put her on the 800 free relay team.

She was coming back later in the evening for the 200 individual medley final, a much-anticipated showdown with U.S. recordholder Natalie Coughlin.

Also, Jason Lezak set his second American record of the day - 47.58 in the semifinals of the 100 freestyle. He broke the mark of 47.78 set in the morning preliminaries by Garrett Weber-Gale, who bested Lezak's 48.15 the heat before.

Lezak was just off the world record of 47.50, established in March by France's Alain Bernard, and the 47.52 put up by Australia's Eamon Sullivan.

'When they did their 47.5s, I didn't think it was attainable,' Lezak said. 'I couldn't believe how fast they were going. For me to come within hundredths of that, it's unbelievable.'

Phelps is already looking ahead to his final two events of the trials. If he can finish first or second in the 100 fly, he would land a spot on the 400 medley relay.

That would give him eight races. Then it's on to Beijing with Spitz in his sights.

'Being here at the Olympic trials and with the best swimmers in the world, it doesn't matter how tired you are,' Phelps said. 'You're still able to get up and swim fast times. I have two more events, and I'm getting ready for those two events.'