IRVINE, United States (AFP) - Michael Phelps will have one last chance to grab a title at the US Swimming Championships on Sunday after qualifying for the final of the 200m individual medley.
The 18-time Olympic gold medalist, on the comeback trail after a near two-year retirement, achieved his aim this week of securing a place in the US team for the Pan-Pacific Championships - and a chance to qualify for the 2015 World Championships.
But he has yet to nab a gold, coming closest with a runner-up finish in the 100m butterfly. Phelps finished sixth in the 100m backstroke and seventh in the 100m freestyle.
In the 200m medley final, he'll be up against longtime rival Ryan Lochte.
Phelps and Lochte finished one-two in their heat, looking like they left plenty in the tank as the posted the fourth- and fifth-fastest times of the morning.
But both are feeling the effects of a lack of training, Phelps in the wake of his extended layoff and Lochte after a knee injury cost him valuable time in the water.
"I didn't really know what to expect this year, it's been the biggest roller coaster of my life," said Lochte, who tore a knee ligament in November and then re-injured the knee in a premature return to racing in February.
"My training hasn't really been there this year," said Lochte, who has also punched his PanPacs ticket. "I'm just taking what I can get."
In Sunday night's final Phelps and Lochte will be chasing top qualifier Conor Dwyer, who posted the third-fastest time in the world this year in the heats with a swim of 1min 57.41sec.
Also in the mix are Olympic backstroke gold medalist Tyler Clary and Chase Kalisz, the second- and third-fastest qualifiers.