Shanghai: American Ryan Lochte posted the fastest qualifying time in the 200-meter freestyle at the world championships, inserting himself into the rivalry between Michael Phelps and Germany`s Paul Biedermann.
Lochte was timed in 1 minute, 46.34 seconds to win his heat against Phelps on Monday.
"I`m a little shaky," Lochte said. "I kind of just wanted to have an easy swim but Michael was next to me and we were pushing each other. It was rough."
Phelps advanced to the evening semifinals in fifth at 1:46.98 — 4.2 seconds off his best time.
"Ryan and I are going to be in the second heat tonight, so we`ll see what it`s going to take to get top eight," Phelps said. "I told him this morning, `We have to go 47 to make it back.`"
Phelps finished third in his heat behind Lochte and Sebastiaan Verschuren of the Netherlands, who was second-quickest overall in 1:46.53.
"I didn`t think I was going that fast," he said. "I`m happy with that though, feeling how I did."
Phelps led off the US 4x100 freestyle relay that earned a bronze on Sunday. Lochte swam in the prelims, but didn`t return for the final.
"We always want to win and that didn`t happen," Lochte said. "It kind of bummed us out, but we`ve got to bounce back from it."
Biedermann, the defending champion from Germany, qualified third at 1:46.56, followed by 400 free champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea at 1:46.63.
Phelps has a score to settle with Biedermann, who stunned the two-time world champion two years ago in Rome while wearing the now-banned high-tech bodysuit. The German also took away the 14-time Olympic gold medalist`s world record. Lochte didn`t swim the event in Rome.
"I hope I can swim with some of the Americans in the race," Biedermann said.
In the first event of the morning prelims, American Natalie Coughlin qualified fastest in the 100 backstroke.
Coughlin, the two-time Olympic champion who won the 2007 world title, touched in 59.73 seconds, one of four women under 1 minute.
"I was still tired from last night`s relay, so I`m looking forward to getting my nap this afternoon before the semifinal," said Coughlin, who helped the United States earn a silver in the 400 freestyle relay. "But I was really happy with my swim. It felt very smooth."
Sinead Russell of Canada was second in 59.80, followed by Australia`s Emily Seebohm in 59.87.
Defending champion and world record-holder Gemma Spofforth of Britain failed to move on, finishing 23rd in 1:01.89. She said she had food poisoning two days ago and hadn`t been able to eat much.
It wasn`t the result Spofforth was looking for a year before the London Olympics.
"I`ve had a bit of a bad year," she said. "I haven`t really been quite so motivated, so hopefully this will be a kick in the butt to get ready for next year."
World champion Rebecca Soni of the United States led the way in the 100 breaststroke at 1:05.54. Ji Liping of China was second in 1:07.10, followed by Sarah Poewe of Britain in 1:07.38.
"First swim always is a little nerve-racking, not knowing if you`re going to do great or do awful," Soni said. "That was OK, but I`m hoping tonight will feel a little better and be a little faster."
Two-time world champion Leisel Jones of Australia was sixth while conserving energy for the evening semifinal.
"I don`t like going hard right in the morning if you really don`t need to," she said.
France had the top two qualifiers in the 100 backstroke. Camille Lacourt was first at 53.30 and Jeremy Stravius finished second at 53.34.
With three-time world champion Aaron Peirsol retired, the United States is looking for its next great backstroker. David Plummer was third-quickest in 53.68.
Denmark`s Lotte Friis advanced to the 1,500 free final with the quickest time of 16:00.47. China`s Shao Yiwen was second at 16:01.72. Two-time world champion Kate Ziegler of the United States was third at 16:02.53.
"When I was young, it would be fast swims in-season all the time and things kind of change as you age," said Ziegler, now 23. "So I feel good, but I feel I still have room to improve a lot."