Rivalries often form the base of competitions. Like most superheroes have their nemesis in comics, athletes, too, have their archrivals. And being the GOAT does not leave Michael Phelps with an exception. He has had to experience his fair share of rivals over his career. However, the athlete that gave him some tough competition was his rival from his home turf, Ryan Lochte.
The rivalry between Michael Phelps and Lochte
The Phelps-Lochte rivalry is among the longest-running in the sport’s history, spanning more than a decade. It sprouted with Lochte debuting at international meets. The newcomer struggled to keep up with Phelps, who dominated the events at the global meets. It was made even more difficult by the clashing of events between the swimmers.
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Phelps made history at the Athens Olympics by winning six golds and two bronze medals. He became the first athlete to secure eight medals in an Olympic meet, placing him among legends like Mark Spitz.
18 Sep 2000: Michael Phelps of the USA in action during the Mens 200m Butterfly Heats at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre on Day Three of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport (Getty)
By 2008, Phelps had shot to fame as the most decorated Olympian by securing eight gold medals in an Olympiad. However, Lochte was progressing in the sport and was trailing just behind the Flying Fish. Even during his Olympic debut in Athens, the swimmer came in second in the 200m individual medley. Phelps secured the gold with a lead of two seconds in the event.
Although the 200m individual medley was the mainstay event of both swimmers, Phelps had dominated the event for the most part since the Athens Olympics. Furthermore, they both competed in the 200m freestyle event that Phelps had dominated since starting his career. But something changed during the 2011 World Championships. Lochte displayed a baffling performance at the meet and beat Phelps in both events.
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Lochte’s victory over Phelps at 2011 World Championships
In a recent interview, Lochte attributed the momentous win to a strategy that his coach suggested. Usually, swimmers waited till the last leg of an event when they would use the wall to gain in on their competitors by engaging in 15-meter underwater dolphin kicks.
However, at the 2011 Worlds, his coach suggested a different approach in the 200m freestyle event. According to Ryan Lochte, his coach suggested that he employ the wall technique after the 100m mark. It was a test of Lochte’s stamina and skills, but the swimmer got the advantage he needed during the event. Using his coach’s advice, he successfully took the lead after the 100 meters and held his position till the end.
Reminiscing the moments of the event, the four-time Olympian said, “I used everything I had, and I was able to win that race.”
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Lochte won both the 200m freestyle and individual medley events that year. He defeated the very person that others had declared invincible through devotion and hard work.
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