Janet Evans competes in preliminary heat 3 of the Women's 800 m Freestyle during Day Six of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 30, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. / Al Bello/Getty Images
(AP) OMAHA, Neb. - Janet Evans finished 53rd out of 65 swimmers in the 800-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, ending the former Olympic champion's comeback at age 40.
Evans completed the 16-lap race in 9 minutes, 1.59 seconds, placing her eighth out of 10 swimmers in her heat won by Jamie Bohunicky, a 21-year-old who swam 8:48.42. Evans' time was far off her seed time of 8:46.89.
"I wish I had swam faster, but I think I will be totally grateful," she said. "Grateful for the fact that I was able to do it and my body held up and people who supported me. I'll be happy I did it instead of sitting on my couch wondering `what if."'
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were back in the pool for the 100 butterfly prelims. Phelps qualified fastest and Lochte was sixth in moving on to the evening semifinals.
Evans climbed out of the pool for the last time to cheers from the crowd. She smiled and gave a small wave before disappearing below the deck. She also didn't advance out of the 400 free prelims on Tuesday, when she finished 80th among 113 swimmers.
"Yes, this is definitely it," she said. "I just signed my retirement papers. First thing I did."
The queen of distance swimming was a three-time Olympian who won the 800 free at the 1988 and '92 Olympics, and was undefeated in the grueling event for eight years during her stellar career. She retired after the 1996 Games, eventually marrying and having two children.
"I'm just looking forward to sitting in the stands finally," said Evans, who plans to be in London during the games. "I don't have to go warm up."
Kate Ziegler, who didn't make the 800 free final in Beijing, was the top qualifier for Sunday's final in 8:27.61. Katie Ledecky, a 15-year-old from Bethesda, Md., was second at 8:27.91. Chloe Sutton, who made the Beijing Olympics as an open-water swimmer, was fourth.
Like Evans, the race also marked the end of trials for two-time Olympian Katie Hoff, who won't be going to London. She finished 13th five spots out of the final in 8:39.03. The 22-year-old, who won five events at the trials four years ago, finished 20th in the 200 free prelims, missing a spot in the semifinals by 0.32 seconds. She didn't advance out of the 400 free prelims after feeling sick from a stomach virus.
"I'm proud of myself for doing it," said Hoff, who had been unsure on Friday whether she would scratch the event. "Obviously, I wanted to be better, but I took it out and tried to hold on and couldn't. Somebody told me my career is about not rolling over in adversity. I don't want to be that girl. I gave it my best shot and that's really all I can do."
Phelps, the Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100 fly, was timed in 51.80 seconds on his 27th birthday.
"After you get past 25, there's no point in even counting anymore," he said.
Phelps swam with a purpose, aiming to get into the second evening semifinal to ensure he would have an extra four minutes to cool down after swimming in the final of the 200 IM 32 minutes earlier.
"The extra time is always good," he said, adding that he liked his prelim time in the fly. "It's probably one of my fastest morning swims ever. It felt good. The first 50 felt fairly controlled. I just wanted to try to have a good second 50."