LONDON Sun Yang and Ryan Lochte provided a sneak preview of what now looms as the most anticipated race of the Olympic swimming competition when they set the fastest qualifying times for the men's 200 metres freestyle on Sunday.
Swimming in the lanes next to each other, the pair treated their heat like a game of cat and mouse, eyeballing each other over the first three and a half laps before shifting up another gear in the last 25 metres.
Sun, who won the 400 freestyle gold medal for China the previous night, got his hand on the wall first in a time of one minute 46.24 seconds with Lochte a close second.
But neither man was trying their hardest as they try to manage their busy programs. Lochte was in hot demand after he demolished his opponents, including Michael Phelps, to win the 400 individual medley on Saturday.
"The 400 IM took a lot out of me last night but it is a new day," Lochte said. "I didn't get to bed until 2am."
South Korea's Park Tae-hwan was fifth fastest. He finished runner-up to Sun in the 400 free after being disqualified in the heats but winning an appeal to be reinstated.
Germany's world record holder Paul Biedermann was 10th. Phelps, who won the race in Beijing four years ago, did not enter this time despite winning the event at the U.S. trials.
(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)