LONDON -- For the first time since his pointed comments critiquing Michael Phelps' work ethic, Tyler Clary dove into the competition pool at the Aquatics Centre Monday morning and did everything he could to steer the conversation from controversy to swimming.
Swimming in the preliminary heats of the 200-meter butterfly, with Phelps in the next lane, Clary turned in the second-fastest time of the morning (1:54.96). Phelps finished third and is seeded fifth entering tonight's semifinals with a time of 1:55.53.
"I said to myself coming into the third wall I was amazed with how well I felt and wanted to see what I could bring home and it was faster than trials," Clary said. "Super, super excited for tonight."
Phelps seemed pleased with his time, as well. On the morning after he turned in the second-fastest split of all 32 swimmers in Sunday night's 4x100 freestyle relay, he was trying to conserve energy.
"I'm pretty happy with that time," he said. "That's all I needed to do."
The swim was Clary's first since he criticized Phelps' work ethic and referred to himself as more of a "blue-collar worker." The day after the article appeared in The (Riverside, Calif.) Press-Enterprise, Clary went to Phelps and apologized, insisting what was printed was not what he meant. The next day, Clary apologized to his other U.S. teammates for causing a distraction.
Finally, on Monday, there appeared to be something else to talk about.
"People are going to say whatever the heck they want," Clary said. "Just leave it be. It doesn't bother me."
On Monday night, Clary and Phelps will swim in separate semifinal heats. Austria's Dinko Jukic swam the fastest time of the morning in the event (1:54.79); but Clary cautioned not to make too much of anyone's preliminary times.
"It's only prelims," he said. "It doesn't matter. Everybody has their own way of doing prelims. Some people show all their cards, some people don't. It just matters what happens in the finals, right?"
Other top Americans from the morning included Allison Schmitt (1:57.33) and Missy Franklin (1:57.62), who swam the second- and third-fastest times in the preliminary heats of the women's 200 freestyle. World-record holder Federica Pellegrini set the pace (1:57.16).
For Franklin, it was the first swim of a full day. Monday night, she will swim in the 200 free semis and 100 backstroke final, with 21 minutes scheduled between races. She is seeded second in the final of the 100 back, behind Australia's Emily Seebohm, who swam 0.27 seconds faster than Franklin in the semifinals.
"It's going to be fun," the 17-year-old Franklin said. "I need to keep my energy up as much as possible and do the best I can do and just be proud of myself. It's going to be tough for sure."