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Thursday, July 28, 2011
Michael Phelps has a reason to work harder

By Jim Caple

What can the sport of swimming do to top Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in 2008? Well, how about a competitive rivalry between Phelps and his friend, Ryan Lochte?

Lochte beat Phelps for the second time at the world championships in Shanghai on Thursday, following up his gold in the 200 free Tuesday with a world-record time of 1:54.00 in the 200 IM. It was the first world record set since the high-tech bodysuits were banned. Phelps was second in 1:54.16.

Phelps told reporters that both losses told him the same thing: "I need to be in better shape. If I want to be faster, the work has to be there and it has to be there consistently."

In other words, the man who has already competed in three Olympics, won 14 gold medals and pretty much accomplished everything he can in his sport now has an incentive to work even harder for London. He has a rival to beat, even if it is a friendly rivalry. I would draw a comparison to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, but I'll avoid the negative baggage that might go with that. Let's just say this could be interesting.

And don't underestimate Phelps. He may not be in top form, but he's won four medals this week -- Lochte has three -- and won the 200 fly Wednesday, the fifth time he's won that event at the world championships.