Phelps Tops Lochte in One of the Greatest Rivalries in Sports

Phelps Tops Lochte in One of the Greatest Rivalries in Sports

By Jim Rusnak // USA Swimming Director of Media Properties  | Saturday, July 2, 2016

OMAHA – Ryan Lochte called it one of the greatest rivalries in sports.

He was referring, of course, to his pending matchup in the finals of the men’s 200m IM Friday at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. With Phelps planning to retire after the Olympic Games in Rio, it would be the last time the two would square off on U.S. soil.

But luckily for swim fans, it will not be the last time the two will race in this event. For the fourth straight Olympic Trials, the duo went 1-2 and earned the right to represent the U.S. in this event at the Games.

And for the fourth straight Trials, it was Phelps who came out on top, 1:55.91 to 1:56.22. They were the second- and third-fastest times in the world this year in that event.

It was Phelps’s second win of the week after taking the 200m butterfly on Wednesday. Lochte has now qualified for the team in two events, including the 800m free relay.

“Ryan and I always have a great race,” Phelps said. “He and I have been racing since 2004 together, and I think when we race each other, we bring each other to a different level. We take each other to that next step.

“In that race, especially, I think there is still a lot to improve on there. I don’t think I swam that race as well as I could have, but we get another chance in a couple weeks.”

As for the rivalry itself, it is old and storied, and traces its roots back to the 2004 Olympic Trials. For the uninitiated, or those just needing a refresher, here’s the rundown on their history at major national and international competitions over the past 12 years:

  • The duo went 1-2 at Olympic Trials for the first time in 2004, then followed that up with a 1-2 finish at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
  • From 2004 to 2008, Phelps held the edge over Lochte, winning every match-up in that time span in major national and international competition.
  • In 2009, Phelps took a hiatus from the event, and Lochte broke Phelps’s world record at the FINA World Championships in Rome.
  • Lochte holds court in 2010, beating Phelps at the ConcoPhillips National Championships and the Pan Pacific Championships. Lochte beats Phelps again at Worlds in 2011, breaking the world record with a time of 1:54.00. That world record still stands today.
  • Phelps edges Lochte at the 2012 Olympic Trials by nine-hundredths of a second, then goes on to win gold at the Olympic Games in London. Lochte takes silver.
  • During Phelps’s brief retirement in 2013, Lochte wins both Nationals and World Championships in this event.
  • Phelps returns to competition in 2014, and finishes second behind Lochte at the Phillips 66 National Championships by five-hundredths of a second. Phelps goes on to win silver at the 2014 Pan Pacs, while Lochte fails to qualify for the finals.
  • In 2015, Lochte wins gold in the 200m IM at the FINA World Championships in 1:55.81. Three days later, Phelps bests Lochte’s time from Worlds by more than a second at the Phillips 66 National Champioships in 1:54.75.
  • Since that day at the 2004 Olympic Trials in Long Beach 12 years ago, Phelps leads Lochte in head-to-head match-ups in major national and international competition, 13 to 4.

“I knew going into this race, it was definitely going to be a dog fight until the end,” Lochte said. “I love racing against him. It’s so much fun. It was kind of a little heartbreaking at the end, because after we finished, we gave each other a hug and said, ‘Good job.’ We both knew it was probably the last time me and him were going to race each other on U.S. soil.

“It’s been a long journey, but the journey is not over. We have another month to get ready and show the world that the U.S. is still No. 1.”

Two for Two
Besides Phelps, two other swimmers swam to their second titles of the week Friday. Lilly King won the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:24.08, while Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200m back in 1:53.95.

King won the 100m breaststroke earlier in the week to qualify for her first Olympic Team. She is the first swimmer to win the women’s 100m and 200m breaststroke since Amanda Beard in 2004. 

“Being able to represent Team USA in two events is a pretty special thing,” King said. “I know I’m really going to have to step up my game if I want to medal in the 200. I’m going to work with my coach for the next couple of weeks, and hopefully that turns out in medals in Rio.”

Finishing second in the women’s 200m breast was Molly Hannis in 2:24.39. She will likely be added to the roster before the meet ends. It will be her first Olympic Team.

Murphy and California Aquatics Teammate Jacob Pebley went 1-2 in the men’s 200m back, with Pebley turning in a time of 1:54.77. Murphy’s time was the second-fastest in the world this year, Pebley’s the fourth-fastest.
It was an emotional finish for both men.

“I had a lot of emotion after that race,” Murphy said. “I was sharing it with one of my best friends in Jacob. I’ve see him fight every day. You guys don’t see it, but we push each other to the max every day. To do that was a dream come true for both of us. It was just really cool.”

Pebley was holding back tears after the race. Like Hannis, he will likely be added to the roster before the meet ends. 

“I had to look several times at the scoreboard to believe it,” Pebley said. “It was like I was in a dream the whole race. When I saw the ‘2’ next to my name, I started freaking out. I couldn’t believe it.”

Clary Calls it a Career
With his third-place finish in the men’s 200m backstroke Friday, Tyler Clary confirmed that he planned to retire from the sport. He was the defending Olympic champion in the 200m back.

“This last four years has been pretty tough for a number of reasons, and I’m really happy to come into this meet and have what I would say is my best performance in the last quad,” Clary said. “Sadly, that wasn’t enough, but that being said, I couldn’t be happier to be sending Team USA off with two backstrokers that I have a lot of respect for, and I know they are going to represent the USA well in Rio. 

“I don’t see any reason to continue. It’s been a great time as a professional swimmer. I’m looking forward to turning a page in the book of my life and starting a new chapter. I’m going to get to do a lot of things now that I’ve been wanting to do for years. 

“I told myself going into this meet that no matter what happened this summer, if I could get to the end of the meet – or the end of my last performance – and look back and legitimately not think there was anything I could have done better, I would have been proud of that, and I feel that I could walk away with my head held high. I feel like I’ve accomplished that here.”

Weitzeil Tops a Tight Field in 100 Free
Abbey Weitzeil shifted in to another gear in the final 30 meters of the race to win the 100m free Friday. Her time of 53.28 was a U.S. Open record and the sixth-fastest time in the world this year. Simone Manuel was second in 53.52.

Both women qualified to represent the U.S. in the 100m free and 400m free relay in Rio. It will be their first Olympic Games. 

Also qualifying for the 400m free relay were Amanda Weir (53.75), Lia Neal (53.77), Allison Schmitt (53.87) and Dana Vollmer (53.92). Weir, Schmitt and Vollmer will be swimming on their third Olympic Teams. Neal will be swimming on her second.

The entire field was separated by less than a second.

“It was crazy,” Weitzeil said. “I knew I was going to have to put my head down and fight for it, because I knew everyone would be right there with me.

“I’ve been to big meets, but this is a different one. The nerves and the vibes in the ready room are totally different. It’s a big nerve-racking meet.” 

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