Swim king Phelps finally bests Lochte and writes further chapter of Olympic history
Thursday, 02 August 2012
August 2 - Like a man on a mission, Michael Phelps thrillingly gained revenge over his American compatriot, Ryan Lochte, tonight to strike gold in the Olympic 200 metres individual medley and make more history – this time as the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Games.
In the process the most decorated Olympian (pictured top, on right, with Lochte) ever collected an incredible 20th medal, 16 of them gold, as he edged out second-placed Lochte with Hungary's László Cseh – who would surely have a gold by now in any other era – having to be content with the bronze.
No race in the Aquatics Centre had been as eagerly anticipated as this, the final showdown in London between the two American warriors.
Phelps, who still has two more medal chances here, retires after London 2012 from the sport he has graced for over a decade.
Lochte had drawn first blood by winning the 400m individual medley on Saturday (July 28), pushing Phelps into fourth place.
Extra spice was added to the rematch with both swimmers side by side in the eight-man field.
This time the immortal Olympic legend that is Phelps was in no mood to be beaten, the 27-year-old from Baltimore starting powerfully and keeping the pretender to his throne at bay.
Only in the final freestyle 50 metres did Lochte – who beat Phelps at last year's World Championships -- threaten to chase down the miracle worker again.
But Phelps, who won eight golds at Beijing 2008, just had enough to hold on amid deafening roars to win in 1min 54.27sec.
Whether Lochte, who must have been exhausted, would have won on another night we will never know.
Just half an hour earlier he swam a gruelling 200m backstroke and now had to come out and do it all again.
"It was a hard race," said Lochte.
"I've been racing against these guys for years now.
"It's not easy, you're on the biggest stage of the world – the Olympics.
"Right now I'm exhausted but I've been training for four years now.
"It's not the colour [of medal] I wanted, I've had some ups and downs but I'll take it.
"Tomorrow is my 28th birthday, so I'm going to take a breather – I can finally relax."
Phelps might have been below his best in London but, to sounds of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, he got a rapturous ovation after the medal ceremony.
Lochte could not even gain a gold in the 200m backstroke, finishing third behind compatriot Tyler Clary, who set a new Olympic record of 1:53.41, and Ryosuke Irie of Japan.
"I swam the perfect race tonight," said Clary.
"You always have big dreams in your head.
"The first thing that went through my mind afterwards was thinking about my late coach, Kevin Perry – he was the influence that got me where I am today."
With Australia having a woeful Olympics in the pool, the women's 200m breaststroke also went to the United States as defending champion Rebecca Soni trimmed one hundredth of a second off the world record she set 24 hours earlier to finish in 2:19.59.
Satomi Suzuki of Japan took silver and Iuliia Efimova of Russia the bronze.
"Right now I'm just on top of the world," said Soni.
"The last few years I've been chasing this and I just can't believe that it's happened.
"When I touched the wall it felt good, I'm just so happy."
Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands powered home to win the women's 100m freestyle sprint in an Olympic record time in 53.00.
And before the night was out, Phelps was back in the pool to win his semi-final in the 100m butterfly.
July 2012: Phelps eclipses Olympic record with 19th medal of career
July 2012: Agnel inspires France 4x100m freestyle team to thrilling swimming success over US
July 2012: Duel in the pool goes Lochte's way as Ye smashes world record
July 2012: Phelps targeting only seven gold medals at London 2012 as US swimming team is named
June 2012: Swim star Phelps reveals eight is again the magic number ahead of London 2012