If there's one rivalry that's been worth watching at Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games, it is that between U.S. swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Despite being close friends — and the fact that Phelps has shattered numerous Olympic records — Lochte has always kept a competitive side toward his pal. However, with Lochte completing his final race and Phelps making this his last Olympic Games, their long-running feud in the pool is coming to an end. Or is it? If anything, Lochte is just getting started. And Phelps? You had better hold your medals close.
For one, swimming fans already know that Lochte will most likely be back for more come the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as Lochte was noticeably disappointed in the fact that he placed fifth during his final race, the men's 200-meter individual medley. However, in an interview with Today's Matt Lauer, Lochte was also sure to heighten the chatter surrounding Rio being Phelps' final Olympics by stating that's if it's not his last time in on the Olympic stage, it's not Phelps' either. "I guarantee he will be there. I think so. I really think so," instigated Lochte. He then looked directly into the camera and stated, "Michael, I'll see you in Tokyo." And knowing Phelps, that may just be a challenge the 30-year-old dad can't refuse.
But what exactly would the continuation of the ongoing Lochte vs. Phelps feud mean? Well, given their history together, a bunch more laughs and a whole lot more U.S. medals would certainly be the result. With Phelps beating the Olympic record with 26 medals (22 of which are gold) and Lochte holding his own with 12 (six of which are gold), it makes sense that Lochte wants to prove himself even further. And when looking back at their Olympic history together, these neck and neck champs have always been sure to keep Olympic viewers on the edges of their seats. Even if, at this point, Phelps is essentially unbeatable.
Yes, both Lochte and Phelps are at Rio's 2016 Olympics, and they generated national attention on London's 2012 Olympic stage, but they've actually competed against each other at the Olympics four different times (spanning a total of 12 years), starting in 2004. And while competing against each other every time, they also lived as roommates. Honestly, they're just too cute together.
Being that some of the Olympic races are relays, Phelps and Lochte have actually helped each other attain the golds they hold in their ever-growing list. In fact, combining the races won by the U.S. team in 2008, 2012 and 2016, Phelps and Lochte share a total of three gold medals from the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay race. All of their other medals were earned during their own individual relays.
However, just because Phelps is so far ahead doesn't mean Lochte hasn't stood a fair chance. During the 2016 Olympic trials, Lochte actually beat out Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley. And aside from beating him a couple of times in the World Championships, he's also held his own against Phelps at the Olympics... once. Lochte has one gold medal over Phelps that he earned from the 400-meter individual medley race in London in 2012, a race in which Phelps didn't even come close enough to snag second or third place.
Yes, Lochte likes to sweet-talk Phelps into a healthy competition. However, he's never considered Phelps his direct rival. In fact, in a recent interview at Rio's 2016 Olympic Games, Lochte joked in saying, "My career would definitely be different. I guess you would say I’d be like the Michael Phelps of swimming if he wasn’t there. But at the same time, I love a challenge, and that’s why I do the events that I do, and going up against him is a challenge.”
Between competing in the pool and hanging out together when they're on the sidelines, it's hard to not want to see these two compete against each other again. This is a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
So, in Tokyo's 2020 Olympics, can Lochte come close to earning the number of medals Phelps has? It's a tough record to beat. And if Phelps is there to compete, well, consider that record to grow even more. Either way, I know Lochte will be proud just to swim in the same pool as Phelps.
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