OMAHA, NEB. — Brendan Hansen may have won a ticket to London on Tuesday night with a victory in the 100-meter breaststroke race, but he's found time as well to watch the rivalry that's riveted everyone: Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
"I think Ryan's really eager and I think Michael's just trying to get to the Olympics," he said of the two events in which the duo have gone one-and-two so far. "The big lights for Michael aren't on yet.
"Rightfully so, he's done the greatest on the biggest stage," the 30-year-old Texan swimmer said, referring to Phelps' eight-for-eight gold-medal performance in the last Olympics. "Right now, the motivation is with Ryan, and he's building confidence with each race he's doing, but I think Michael's just trying to get through this week, in my opinion ... just to get to London."
It's an unusual position for the Baltimore swimmer to be in, chasing rather than being chased, especially with memories of his Beijing Games still fresh. Hansen credits Phelps with turning swimming into more of a draw, as seen by the crowds that have flocked here to CenturyLink Center -- more than 12,000 Tuesday night -- to watch the competition.
"He put swimming into superstar status," Hansen said. "He is the reason swimming is what it is today."
Wednesday looms as a big day for Phelps as he continues trying to stave off Lochte.
In the morning, he swims a preliminary heat for one of his signature events, the 200-meter butterfly. Lochte gets the morning off, and then the two face off again in the evening final of the 200-meter freestyle. In Tuesday night's semifinals, Lochte finished .02 of a second ahead of Phelps.
And then he likely will not be done swimming. The men's 200-fly semifinals are Wednesday night as well.
Monday night, Lochte also was first and Phelps second in the 400-meter individual medley, but that was good enough as the top two finishers qualified for the event in London.