Lochte Shines in Tough Treble
Ryan Lochte booked two Olympic berths and set himself up as a longshot for one more Saturday with a gritty treble on the sixth day of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
Lochte opened his night with a triumph in the 200m backstroke, giving himself a chance to defend the gold medal he won in Beijing.
Half an hour later came a head-to-head clash with 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who won the 200m individual medley with world record-holder Lochte pushing him all the way.
Lochte capped his day with the equal sixth-fastest time in the semifinals of the 100m butterfly, an event he rarely swims, but what the heck.
"Ryan thrives on challenges," his coach Gregg Troy said.
"Tonight was probably the most pain I've endured in a swimming competition," admitted Lochte. "But you know what, I was up for the challenge. I knew I was able to do it."
Phelps, who became the poster-child for multi-race programs as he achieved the unprecedented feat of winning eight gold medals in Beijing, said he took Lochte's schedule into account in their medley clash.
"I know the 200 back long course is a very tough race, and I know it takes a lot out of your legs, so I wanted to jump on it the first 100 and see what happened," Phelps said.
He duly seized the lead on the opening butterfly leg of the medley and held it at every turn, if only by a hair's breadth.
"We were probably playing that cat and mouse game again, and then of course the last 50 we went," said Phelps, who managed to hold Lochte off by nine-hundredths of a second.
Phelps said Lochte's day -- which started with 100m fly heats in the morning -- was impressive.
"Ryan got in there and raced hard, and it's a very challenging triple," Phelps said. "I would never sign up for it. He did a very good job of getting up and racing three hard races."
Lochte said that was just what he wanted to do.
"The best thing about swimming is racing and stepping up against the world's best," he said.