Coughlin fastest qualifer in 100m freestyle; Hoff out


OMAHA, Neb. --
Katie Hoff, who already had qualified for four individual events and one relay, failed to advance out of the semifinals of the 100 freestyle, denying her a chance to go for as many as eight medals in Beijing.

But Hoff's 11th-best time against a field that included Natalie Coughlin and 41-year-old Dara Torres wasn't that surprising -- the 100 was by far the longest shot on the 19-year-old's grueling program.

Michael Phelps had a relatively easy night, posting the second-fastest time in the semis of the 200 individual medley. He moved on to another showdown Friday with rival Ryan Lochte, who had the top time.

Coughlin was the top qualifier for Friday's final in the women's 100 free. She won her heat in 53.64, touching just ahead of Torres, the four-time Olympian who has twice retired from swimming but is back again -- 24 years after her first U.S. trials. Torres also moved on to the final with the second-best time (53.76).

"It was my best time ever," said Torres, holding her 2-year-old daughter Tessa. "I had nerves, but it was a good nerves, it was like I was ready to go out there and have fun."

Elaine Breeden won the 200 butterfly in 2:06.75, ahead of Kathleen Hersey. Breeden also will swim the 100 fly in Beijing after taking second in that event Monday.

Three-time Olympian Amanda Beard emerged as a solid contender in the 200 breaststroke, her last chance for No. 4. She was second in the semifinals, more than two seconds behind leader Rebecca Soni but well aware that only takes second to get to Beijing.