Men's Swimming & Diving Headline
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
That was the daunting situation Ryan Lochte signed up Saturday by choosing to swim in the 100-meter butterfly -- a first for him -- and thus adding a preliminary and semifinal race to a docket that already included a pair of championship heats in prime time.
"Tonight was probably the most pain I've endured in swimming competition," Lochte said.
We'll never know whether the extra pool time would have mattered in Lochte's highly anticipated third showdown against Phelps, this one in the 200-meter individual medley. But considering Phelps won the race by nine one-hundredths of a second -- 1:54.84 to 1:54.93, beating the world record-holder in the event -- feel free to draw your own conclusions.
One thing we do know is there will be a rematch in the 2012 Summer Games in London, as both Phelps and Lochte grabbed the American qualifying 200 IM spots, meaning Lochne, six years removed from his magnificent career with the Gators, has now qualified for four individual events for the U.S. squad.
Making the 100 butterfly a fifth is a longshot, at best, considering it's an unfamiliar event and that Phelps guy, the world record-holder in the 100 fly, is a lock for one of the two berths. Lochte's time of 52.47 Saturday tied for sixth, more than a second behind Phelps.
Nonetheless, Lochte has no intention of scratching from Sunday night's final.
"I never go into a race looking for second or third. I go up there to win," he said. "I won't have anything in between [Sunday]. My legs will be a little bit rested and hopefully I can put on a better show than tonight."
That fly showing came roughly 25 minutes after the IM, which came about 25 minutes after Lochte won the men's 200-meter backstroke, overtaking Tyler Clary in the final 50 meters to win 1:54.54 to 1:54.88.
"Any backstroker will tell you it's one of the hardest events out there," Lochte said of the 200. "It just takes your legs out of you. And then having to come back like 20 minutes later and go against Michael Phelps? I knew I was up for the challenge. It was definitely hard, I'm a little tired, but it's good for me."
After the fly, back and breaststroke legs, Phelps led Lochte by just two one-hundredths of a second in the IM, then held him off in the final 50 meters of freestyle as the second straight sold-out crowd at CenturyLink Center road their approval.
"That's a very challenging triple ... without much time to recover," Phelps said of Lochte's slate. "But he's tough. You saw that tonight. He got up there and raced three very challenging races, and did it well."
U.S. coach Gregg Troy, who has coached Lochte since his freshman year with the Gators in 2002, didn't rule out Lochte swimming well enough to grab one of the two 100 butterfly spots. He also didn't guarantee Lochte would swim the event in London, even if he did qualify.
There's a bigger picture at work here.
"We're 20-some days away from the competition," Troy said. "The best training for him right now is getting out and going fast. If he has a weakness, it's still setting up walls. So the more he prepares and shaves and is on top of it, the better we're going to get on it. Today was about quality training; a great training opportunity."
Assuming Phelps wins the 100 fly Sunday night, that would make him three-for-four in head-to-head races against Lochte at this meet. That will be the biggest storyline coming out of the trials and one repeated over and over in the run-up hype to the Games.
Phelps was asked if now holds a psychological edge over his rival.
"It doesn't really matter here," Phelps said. "The bigger races are a couple weeks down the road. I think the trials for the Americans are much more stressful than the Games are; just getting and securing your spot on the team."
Lochte has done that. In addition to his four individual events, he figures to swim three relays. That's seven events.
Same as Phelps.
"I know what my body can handle," Lochte said. "I know this meet was just a stepping stone for what I really want to do in London. Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the meet is going. I still have one more race [Sunday], so I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it goes."