RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The curtain comes down on one of swimming’s great rivalries on Thursday, August 11 when Olympic giants Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte lock horns one last time.
Phelps will look to win the men’s 200m individual medley for an incredible fourth successive Games while Lochte, so often the bridesmaid, finally tries to get one over on his fellow American.
After the formalities of Wednesday’s semi-finals, both swimmers indulged in some sweet-talk before their last dance in Rio.
“The history him and I have had with one another it’s something special,” said Phelps, who won his record 20th and 21st Olympic gold medals on Tuesday.
“We’ve been racing for the last 12 years and having one more battle tomorrow will be fun,” he added after qualifying quickest for the final in a time of one minute, 55.78 seconds.
“Ryan and I have grown closer as friends this year – so we’ll have one more time to hop in the pool and duke it out.”
Phelps has caught fire in his fifth and final Olympics, winning gold medals in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays and the 200m fly, and Lochte is under no illusions about the size of the task he faces.
“It’s going to take a perfect performance in order to beat him because of how tough a competitor he is,” said world record holder Lochte, who has taken two silvers and a bronze behind Phelps in Athens, Beijing and London.
“He won’t give up and that’s awesome. That’s why he brings out the best in me.
“Any chance I can get up and race Michael, that’s the best,” gushed Lochte, second fastest in the semi-finals half a second behind Phelps. “We’ve been racing since 2004. He’s the toughest competitor I’ve ever gone up against.
“When we go up on the blocks, we’re always trying to win – that’s just the competitive instinct we have,” he added. “But win or lose we’re still good friends.”
Brazilian Thiago Pereira qualified third quickest in front of his home fans in 1:57.11 but the real danger is likely to come from Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, who won the 400m medley in Rio and has plans to gatecrash the American party.
“Tomorrow I just have to swim my own race and leave everything out there,” the 21-year-old Japanese told AFP after winning his heat in 1:57.38.
“I really don’t care about Phelps or Lochte. They’re heroes of mine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to front up.
“Precisely because they are heroes of mine, I want to give them my best shot, give it everything I’ve got.” – Rappler.com