Michael Phelps was shown to be mortal when Ryan Lochte defeated the Olympic champion in the 400m individual medley at the US Trials two days ago. Then yesterday Lochte was at it again, besting Phelps in the 200m semi final.
Today sees both men in the final, with Lochte knowing that his 1:46.25 was better than Phelps’ 1:47.27.
This, it must be said, is a sign of how scary and busy the international field is for freestyle swimming. Paul Biedermann of Germany is the World Record holder in the 200m freestyle (1:42), and he is in good form in Europe this year, but he has lost to both Lochte and Phelps in recent memory. It will be a strong pool next month at the Games, with the likes of Lochte, Phelps, Biedermann, Ryan Napoleon of Australia and Tae-hwan Park of South Korea all entering the Aquatics Centre.
The competition is not putting athletes off, though. Former 200m freestyle World Record holder and Olympic champion Ian Thorpe tried to come out of retirement for the Games. He fell at the first hurdle, trailing badly in the Australian trial.
One successful comeback has been achieved by Brendan Hansen of Team USA, though. Hansen had retired in 2008 after failing to snatch a gold medal in Beijing. At 30 he has come back, and he tore past the rest of the field in Omaha to win the 100m breaststroke in 59.68s.
There are busy days ahead, with the swimming events beginning on the 28th of July and running for eight straight days. How many medals will Lochte take off Phelps’s hands?