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OMAHA, Neb. -- When they first crossed paths before a pre-Olympic trials press conference a little over a week ago, Michael Phelps had a bushy moustache and Ryan Lochte a lime green leather backpack. Their rivalry had been built up as the next big thing in swimming, with Lochte peddling the idea that it could be the biggest story in sports.
It seemed sort of laughable at the time, a pair of swimmers outdueling the likes of Yankees-Red Sox, Auburn-Alabama or Bears-Packers. But after four events and a week of head-to-head duels, it's not that funny anymore. In fact, if there's anything we learned this week, it's that the two 27-year-olds have every intention of putting on one heck of a show later this month in London.
Of the four events in which the two swimmers butted heads this week, Phelps won three -- the 200-meter individual medley, 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly -- while Lochte took the 400 IM. But Phelps' combined margin of victory was a mere three-tenths of a second. In no race was the margin less than a second, and Lochte's winning margin of .83 seconds in the 400 IM was the largest. Of the 16 50-meter splits the two rivals swam in finals, Phelps was faster in eight of them, Lochte in seven, and there was one tie.
What does that mean? These guys are close. Really close. And London should be incredible. Here are five other things we learned this week.
|Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps went head-to-head in four events at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.|
"And I was like, 'Yeah, you weren't clued in on that yet?'" Bowman said. "'That's why I like when you show up at the pool.'"
But a day after Phelps finished his trials schedule, Bowman changed the plan, announcing via Twitter on Monday that Phelps will remove the 200 freestyle from his London slate:
@MichaelPhelps will be removing the individual 200 freestyle from his Olympic program. This will give him a full slate of 7 events. This change will allow him to focus more energy on relays for Team USA.
Despite the change, Phelps can still make history this summer. He needs just three medals to become the most decorated Olympian of all time and could be the first swimmer to win the same individual event three times. London will not just be a retirement tour.
Though Lochte won only one of the races, Troy called it one of Lochte's greatest performances of his career. As proof, Troy pointed out that Phelps only beat a tired Lochte by nine-hundredths of a second in the 200 IM. At the end of the night, an exhausted Lochte could barely walk. So why did he do it?
"It was fun," he said. "Something I've never done before. I just wanted to try something new and have fun."
Lochte won't have similar fun in London. By finishing third in the 100 fly Sunday night, he failed to qualify for the U.S. team in the event.
|Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps will face off against each other in the two individual medleys at the London Olympics.|
Gaines said it makes sense because that was the level of effort Phelps and Lochte needed to make the team. In fact, Bowman said this week his swimmer was about "80 percent" where he thought he would be in London. And Lochte noted Sunday he was not fully rested for this meet but would be fully tapered for the Games. He also referred to the trials as a training meet, suggesting there is more to come.
The two swimmers will spend the next three weeks fine-tuning everything from their turns to the way they position their hands in the water, and they will do it while training together. It should all lead to one of the biggest shows in this summer's Games.
"I think they are both capable of so much more and there's no reason to think they're going to let us down," Gaines said. "Every race coming down to a hundredth of a second with those two guys going 1-2. There's never been anything like it in the sport."