Michael Phelps, back from his DUI suspension, and Ryan Lochte, back from a knee injury and flirtation with celebrity, went head-to-head at the Arena Pro Swim in Mesa, Ariz. recently and split the difference.
Phelps edged Lochte in the 100-meter freestyle April 16. Lochte finished first, and Phelps third, in the 200-meter individual medley April 18.
“Like old times,” Lochte said.
Theirs is a most interesting rivalry, most companionable. It helps that they have complementary personalities – Lochte being more laidback and Phelps more intense, at least on the surface – and that the superb Lochte is nonetheless not quite in Phelps’ league. And yet that has never fazed Ryan. He keeps coming after him.
It helps, too, that unlike tennis players in general, swimmers also play a team sport. As David Sheinin notes in his perceptive piece:
“Phelps and Lochte have been teammates on three U.S. Olympic squads — and on three gold medal-winning 4x200-meter freestyle relay teams — and appear on their way to a fourth Olympics together at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Lochte is one of the few men in the world who can say he has beaten Phelps at his best, and having his rival back in the water seems to give him a competitive lift.”
Old times indeed.