Women's Swimming & Diving Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
OMAHA, Neb. -- The first two rounds of Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials have been the sport's equivalent of Ali-Frazier, with the two heavyweights trading punches and each coming out with a victory.
Now comes Round 3, set for Saturday night, when Phelps and Lochte yet again go side-by-side and head-to-head, this time in the 200-meter individual medley before what will be a delirious and delighted packed house at the CenturyLink Center.
"Obviously, I want to win every race," Phelps said after finishing second to a hard-charging Lochte in the semifinal heat Friday night. "But [Saturday] is my birthday, so I hopefully I get a birthday present."
Lochte, the former Gator, was asked after out-touching Phelps by just over a second (1:55.51 to 1:56.66) what he was getting his rival for his 27th birthday.
"I'll have to think about it," said Lochte, also 27.
There will be nothing given in the water, that's for sure.
The 200 IM will be the trials rubber match between the American super duo, which has combined for 22 Olympic medals, including 17 golds (14 for Phelps). Lochte beat Phelps in the 400 IM final last Monday by eight-tenths of a second. Two nights later, it was Phelps beating Lochte in the finals of the 200 freestyle by an even smaller margin: 5/100ths of a second.
Both Lochte and Phelps have at least two swims Saturday night, though Lochte's go in the 200-meter back final will precede their race in the IM. Earlier in the day, Lochte swam the prelims in the 100-meter butterfly, also. That surprised some people in Omaha, especially late this afternoon when it appeared Lochte had every intention to swim three times Saturday night. That would be unprecedented at the trials.
Phelps' night won't be nearly as taxing. He's swimming a 100 fly semifinal heat -- after his IM match with Lochte -- in what will be evening's final event and only has to post a qualifying time in the top eight to advance to Sunday's final.
Lochte, who coasted to sixth in his preliminary 100 fly heat Saturday morning, will have maybe 20 minutes between his 200 back final and the 200 IM final tonight, then maybe another 20-30 minutes should he remain in the 100 fly.
"It seems like every time I do those doubles, I get shorter and shorter rest intervals," Lochte said Friday night. "But you know what? I'm up for that challenge. It's something I've been doing for four years now -- challenging myself. I'm definitely ready."
Ready, apparently, for maybe a triple. Can you say crazy?
As for the rivalry craze between Lochte and Phelps, it's taken on such a high profile that Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, suggested earlier in the week the two had begun to engage in games of "cat and mouse" against each other rather than racing against clock.
US coach Gregg Troy, who has been Lochte's mentor since since he came to Gainesville from Daytona Beach Spruce Creek High in 2004, downplayed that notion Friday night.
"It happens once in a while," Troy said. "It doesn't concern me. It's still a race."
Everyone will be watching this last one, then immediately anticipating more of the same, starting late next months.
In London. For gold.