Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps swims to victory with a time of 50.89 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly. "This week turned out how I wanted it to," Phelps said. "I'm ready for the challenge that lies ahead of me." (AP photo / July 5, 2008)

Hoff will also be a member of at least one relay team, the 800-meter freestyle relay, which should be favored to win gold. Could she, a reporter asked, foresee herself having a Phelps-like performance in China?

"I can't really predict anything as big as that," Hoff said. "Going to this meet, I couldn't tell you I was going to break a world record or win this or that event. I'm just going to try and do just as well as I did here, or better, in Beijing. That's my goal."

It's almost hard to believe that the world's best male swimmer and the world's best female swimmer grew up fine-tuning their strokes in the same 50-meter pool at the Meadowbrook Athletic Club. But little more than a month from now, they'll likely be the two biggest stars of the Olympics.

"Just people from Baltimore," Phelps said when asked how to explain his and Hoff's accomplishments. "Must be something in the water."

In other action, Margaret Hoelzer set the ninth world record of the trials, winning the women's 200-meter backstroke in 2:06.09.

Dara Torres set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle, winning her semifinal heat in 24.38 seconds. At 41, she will be the oldest American ever to swim at the Olympics.

On the men's side, Garrett Weber-Gale completed a sprint double, winning the 50-meter freestyle with an American record, while Gary Hall Jr. failed to claim a spot on the team heading to Beijing.

Weber-Gale, who won the 100 free, touched first in the furious one-lap sprint with a time of 21.47 seconds, beating the mark of 21.59 that Cullen Jones set the previous day in the preliminaries. Hall was fourth in 21.91, ending his quest to make the U.S. team and win his third straight gold in the 50 free.

kevin.vanvalkenburg @baltsun.com