LONDON -- It was the race every swimming fan had anticipated since the Olympics began. Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte. Ryan Lochte-Michael Phelps.
One last time for old times' sake, except this year was Lochte's year. This time was Lochte's time. Or so Lochte claimed after beating Phelps in the 400 individual medley to open the meet.
In the end, it was the same ol' same ol'. Phelps beat Lochte in the 200 IM. It was Phelps who won another gold medal, and Phelps who set another record in becoming the first male swimmer to win the same individual event in three consecutive Olympics.
Lochte likely wanted to pull a Jan Brady and scream, "All day long at the pool I hear how great Michael is at this or how wonderful Michael did that! Michael! Michael! Michael!"
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Lochte, though, couldn't even beat teammate Tyler Clary in the 200 backstroke earlier Thursday as Clary broke Lochte's Olympic record from 2008 with a 1:53.41. Lochte finished second in 1:53.78.
"Whenever I step on the blocks, I always want to win," Lochte said. "That's just the mindset that I have. But sometimes you have it; sometimes you don't."
Lochte and his coach, Gregg Troy, tried their best to put a positive spin on Lochte's Olympics. It is true he is going home with five Olympic medals after swimming six events, something few Olympians will accomplish this year or have accomplished at any Games. That's certainly "above average," as Lochte characterized it.
"How many people walk out with five medals?" Troy said. "I mean, it's way above average. It's just not quite... You come with real high expectations. Sometimes you get them. Sometimes you don't."
Gatorade, Gillette and Nissan were counting on Lochte getting them. They signed him to rich deals to promote their products, gambling he would become the face of the American team, as NBC suggested he could be.
Phelps, who swims the final individual race of his career today, remains the star of Olympic stars. He added to his record-medal haul Thursday with the 20th of his career, including 16 gold. Phelps has four medals this Olympics, including two golds, and could walk away with two more golds.
"We've had a really good run," Bob Bowman, Phelps' longtime coach, said, reflecting on Phelps' career.
Lochte's résumé is unfulfilled.
He won only one individual gold in these Olympics despite being the favorite in both races Thursday. He was the defending Olympic champion and world champion in the 200 backstroke, and he set the world record in the 200 IM at last year's world championships in beating Phelps by .16 of a second.
Lochte set himself up for greatness this Olympics, creating his own hype after winning the 400 IM.
"I've said this before that this is my year," Lochte said Saturday. "I know and I feel it, just because I put in hard work. I've trained my butt off for four years, and I just feel inside my gut that this is my year."
Yet Lochte's only other gold medal came in the 4x200 free relay. He was beaten on the anchor leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay by France's Yannick Agnel, beaten by Clary in the 200 back and beaten by Phelps in the 200 IM. He placed fourth in the 200 free, one of four individual events he won at the FINA World Championships last year.
After the 200 IM, Phelps held out his hand to his rival, and Lochte had to hand it to Phelps.
It's Michael Phelps' world; Ryan Lochte just lives in it.
"I wanted to get all golds in my events, but you know what, it didn't happen," Lochte, 27, said. "I am going to have to live with that and move on and learn from it and try not to make mistakes in the next four years, because I am definitely going to train for four years."
Charean Williams, 817-390-7697