Phelpte > Rafanole?

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are never strangers when they meet. Photograph of Phelps by J.D. Lasica. 


Overshadowed by the World Cup and Wimbledon – OK, and LeBron James returning to Cleveland and baseball’s All-Star Game and lots of other sporting events/news – the recent Bulldog Grand Slam at the University of Georgia in Athens nonetheless had a pleasure all its own, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte testing each other in a pool once more.

Is there a more pleasant rivalry? Look at the pictures from wherever, whenever they meet. They’re like two buddies who can pick up the threads of a conversation over distances and time.

“It never gets old,” Lochte says in the piece of swimming against his rival. “I love it. He’s the toughest racer I’ve ever had to go up against. No matter what stroke, what event, he’ll race you to the end. It’s a challenge to race against him and I’m always up for a challenge. Win or lose, no matter what, at the end of the race, we’re still going to be friends. We’re not going to hold a grudge, so, I love it.”

It helps that swimming is a relatively marginal sport, except at Olympic time – Phelps and Lochte are basically swimming to get in shape for Nationals in August  and that Phelpte are teammates as well. Whereas Rafanole are competitors locked in a continuing battle for titles and trophies attached to big prize money. Although I’m not convinced that Rafa and Nole aren’t so chummy anymore. After their grand South American exhibition tour last year – in which they raised money for charity while sightseeing and doing crazy stuff like playing tennis on a barge near a glacier – Nole quipped that he saw Rafa more often than his own mother.

It is, The New York Times has said, the greatest rivalry not only in tennis but in all of sports.

Ah, but in light of Phelpte, is it the friendliest?