Michael Phelps just beat Ryan Lochte in the Olympic 200-meter IM final, perhaps for the last time.
The two most decorated swimmers in Olympic history have had a long, storied rivalry, and with Phelps potentially on his last Olympics, it could be their final battle.
In the qualifying heat, Phelps beat Lochte in a sight that, frankly, we’ve seen before. For much of their careers, Phelps has beaten Lochte.
Lochte is aware of this, of course. In an interview with NBC, Lochte gave a brutally honest quote about where he stands in the pecking order and what his career would be like if it wasn’t for Phelps.
“My career would definitely be different,” Lochte said when asked if he’s grateful for Phelps being around at the same time. “I guess you would say I’d be like the Michael Phelps of swimming if he wasn’t there.”
It’s likely a tough admission for Lochte. Entering Thursday, he has 12 Olympic medals, six of them gold, making him the second-most decorated swimmer ever — Phelps has 25 total, 21 of them gold.
However, as Sports Illustrated noted, Phelps is 4-1 all-time in finals vs. Lochte, with the only loss coming in the 400-meter IM in London 2012. Otherwise, in 200 IM finals, Phelps has dominated Lochte.
Who knows what would happen if Phelps did not exist. Lochte may have still lost to another swimmer. Similarly, maybe some of Lochte’s gold medals in relays wouldn’t have happened without Phelps’ help. But for arguments’ sake, if that 1-4 record vs. Phelps in finals disappeared, Lochte might have 12 Olympic medals, 10 of them gold. It would add to an already-impressive count and make him the most decorated swimmer in Olympic history.
However, Lochte, as any competitor would feel, said he also embraces the challenge of swimming against Phelps.
“I love a challenge. That’s why I do the events that I do, and going against him is a challenge.”
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