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Originally published July 21, 2012 at 7:38 PM | Page modified July 21, 2012 at 9:51 PM

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Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte could be the Olympics' biggest battle

The two American superstar swimmers will compete head-to-head in two events at this year's Olympics.

The Associated Press

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Can sprinter Usain Bolt be bolted down?

It should be no surprise that something is fueling Usain Bolt. The Jamaican throttled pursuers in 2008 with record-setting times in the 100 and 200 meters in Beijing. But are his best days behind him?

The one-time "World's Fastest Man" might not even be the fastest Jamaican after losing to compatriot Yohan Blake in the 100- and 200-meter races in the Caribbean island nation's Olympic trials.

Critics point to misplaced priorities and age for the "demise" of Bolt, who is said to enjoy his share of "unwinding," as he calls it, or more commonly referred to as partying like it's 1999.

Bolt, though, has plenty of motivation, hoping to become the first to repeat as gold medalist in the sprint races since Carl Lewis in 1984 and '88.

John Henry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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There's nothing like a good rivalry to get the competitive juices flowing.

At the Olympic pool in London, get ready to savor Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte.

They are the world's two greatest swimmers, and their head-to-head races at the U.S. Olympic trials were downright epic. Of course, that was merely a tantalizing warmup for the events that really matter in Britain.

"I always love competition," Phelps said. "You can probably count on there being some other close races in the next couple of weeks."

Already the winningest Olympian ever with 14 gold medals, Phelps will swim seven more events in London in what he insists will be his final meet as a competitive swimmer. The 27-year-old has long stated his plans to retire as soon as his hands hit the wall for the final time at these Games.

Lochte, also 27, has no plans to quit the sport, and the only parting gift he'd like to send to his friendly rival is a couple of Olympic silver medals, which is actually a color Phelps doesn't have.

"It's hard to say who is the best swimmer," said Lochte, who beat Phelps twice at the 2011 world championships but lost to him three out of four times at the U.S. trials. "We're both great racers, and we have been going back and forth for so long."

"Neither one of us likes to lose," Phelps said.

Phelps actually qualified in eight Olympic events, giving him a chance to match his record haul of gold medals from the Beijing Games four years ago. But he dropped the 200-meter freestyle, believing a slightly smaller program would give him a better chance to succeed, considering he didn't train nearly as hard for these Olympics as he did leading up to 2008.

Plus, racing seven times instead of eight removes any pressure to repeat his Great Haul of China, when he broke Mark Spitz's iconic record for most golds at one Olympics.

"We won't hear that number 'eight' again," said Bob Bowman, Phelps' longtime coach.

That leaves him with two races against Lochte: the 200 and 400 individual medleys. Lochte, a laid-back Floridian known for his wild wardrobe, gaudy jewelry and blurting out nonsensical words such as "jeah," won both events at the 2011 worlds, beating Phelps with a world-record time in the 200 and easily taking the longer race with Phelps sitting out.

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