Lochte masters Phelps again
Beating Michael Phelps does not surprise Ryan Lochte any more. What was once regarded as mission impossible has suddenly become second nature to the American.
After spending most of his career swimming in Phelps’ backwash, Lochte is now the pacesetter, regularly beating his rival in a range of events.
At last year’s world championships, Lochte defeated Phelps in the 200 meters freestyle and 200 individual medley, events that Phelps once ruled supreme.
At the US Olympic trials on Monday, Lochte beat him again, in the 400m individual medley, to book his place in the American team for London.
By finishing second Phelps also qualified and will get another chance to race Lochte for the Olympic gold, but Lochte no longer holds any fears about racing him.
“It’s a rivalry that we have had for almost eight years now and we just have been switching back and forth,” Lochte said.
“It’s hard to say who is the best swimmer, because we’re both great racers, and we have been going back and forth for so long.”
Perhaps the most surprising part of Monday’s race was that it was hardly a surprise at all. As expected, Phelps led Lochte after the opening butterfly leg, but was overtaken on the backstroke leg and trailed for the rest of the race.
Lochte even slowed down at the end and glided into the wall to win in four minutes 07,06 seconds. Phelps was second in 4:07,89, more than four seconds outside the world record he set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“That’s about what we expected,” said Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman. “He just kicked our ass.”
Lochte was less impressed by his own performance, knowing that his best is yet to come. He has been trained to peak at the London Olympics from July 27-Aug. 12.
“That time was not good at all, I know I’m capable of going way faster,” he said.
“There is definitely a lot of places during that race where I knew I could go as faster, I just didn’t.
“But, I had to do what I had to do to get on the wall, and hopefully that will change in a month.”
Inspired by watching Phelps win eight gold medals in Beijing, Lochte is targeting a similar haul in London, although he is yet to confirm exactly how many races he will swim.
He entered 11 individual events for the trials but has already pulled out of one, the 400m freestyle, leaving him with 10, plus the three relays.
“We’re just taking it day by day,” said his coach Gregg Troy.
“We’ll see how he goes and how his body is. Our plan is very fluid.”