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Wed Apr 23 21:32:09 SAST 2014

US stars need to step it up in London

Sapa-AFP | 28 June, 2012 08:560 Comments
2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials - Day 3
(L-R) Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps during the medal ceremony for the championship final of the Men's 200 m Freestyle during Day Three of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 27, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska
Image by: Al Bello / Getty Images

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte put on quite a show in the 200m freestyle at the US Olympic swimming trials on Wednesday, but they won’t have the pool to themselves at the London Games.

Neck and neck at the final turn, both surged off the wall to battle to the end with Olympic champion Phelps getting the victory in 1min 45.70sec — five-hundredths of a second ahead of world champion Lochte.

  It was great theater, and a good win for Phelps over a rival who eclipsed him at last year’s World Championships and beat him Monday in the 400m individual medley.

  But Phelps said flatly he didn’t think his winning time would be good enough in London.

  “In my eyes, 1:45.7 is not going to make the medal podium,” said Phelps, noting that the likes of Germany’s Paul Biedermann — who set the world record of 1:42.00 in a now-banned high-tech suit — and South Korea’s Park Tae-Hwan will be eager to take on the US duo in London.

  France’s Yannick Agnel has clocked 1:44.42 this year, and Phelps himself swam a hair faster — 1:45.69 — at a Grand Prix meeting in March.

  While Lochte loves to race against 14-time Olympic champion Phelps, and predicted their rivalry will light up the London Games, he also knows they can’t afford to ignore the rest of the world.

  He even mentioned it to Phelps as they accepted their awards on Wednesday.

  “He said, I guess we’re going to have to take it out a lot faster,” Phelps said.

  “So we both knew that we were out fairly slow. I find that when we’re next to each other we kind of play cat and mouse. We don’t just sort of jump out after it.”  Phelps’s coach Bob Bowman seemed to find it a little unsettling.

  “Can’t imagine how it got to this situation, but now Ryan and Michael, when they’re next to each other, they are so focused on racing each other, they do stuff like tonight, not take it out so fast,” said Bowman.

  “Tonight, Michael got ahead, and he was like, ’Well, I’m ahead of Ryan, I’m OK.’ And then Ryan is just waiting to make his move, and he makes his move and they do the cat and mouse stuff, and in the process of that they forgot to swim fast,” Bowman added.

  Lochte, famously nonchalant, said it wouldn’t be a problem in London.

  “We didn’t really try to pick it up until, like, the last 75 (meters),” he acknowledged. “I’ll save that for the Olympics.” 

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US stars need to step it up in London

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