Phelps, Beware – New Shark In The Pool
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, US swimmer Michael Phelps was front, center and everywhere after winning an unprecedented number of gold medals. Less press coverage swirled around his teammate Ryan Lochte, in comparison.
In Beijing, Phelps’ record-breakers in the 200-m and 400-m individual medleys barely edged out what Lochte clocked in. Then at the world swimming championships in 2011, Lochte avenged himself. Not only did Lochte collect more golds than Phelps; he also broke the latter’s record in the 200-m individual medley. An irked Phelps reportedly admitted he had been resting on his laurels for too long and vowed to make up for it in the forthcoming London Olympics.
Lochte has always claimed that Phelps’ gilded prowess constantly pushes him to race faster. Relaying his peers’ feedback to the media, Lochte said that he could be the greatest swimmer of all time with Phelps out of the way.
Whereas Phelps senses his career peak coming with the London Games, Lochte sets his sights further, on Rio de Janeiro 2016, or if he feels lucky, 2020. He is admittedly still having so much fun in swimming and sees no urgent reason for stopping soon.
Raised in New York and Florida, Ryan learned his first strokes as a baby from his mother Ileana, a Cuban immigrant. Ileana would include Ryan in her local swimming lessons but took care not to shower him with deferential treatment; his dad Steven, also a swimmer, was even sterner. Ryan said he owes the foundation of all his techniques in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle to his mother. By age 8 or 9, Ryan had begun to develop a penchant for racing.
For all these, Lochte emphasizes that swimming is not the be-all of his existence, although he feels responsible for propagating the sport, mostly by coloring his public persona. This is the same man who infamously accepted his silver medal at the 2007 world championships while flaunting diamond braces patterned after his music idol Lil Wayne. In his spare time, Lochte pursues such non-aquatic activities as basketball and skateboarding.
Training under coach Gregg Troy, Lochte was a sensation at the Olympic trials in Omaha, Nebraska on June 25. There, Lochte and Phelps easily outpaced 50 others to join the US swim team.
Before this year’s trials, Lochte had undergone a taxing regimen that encompassed two hours of pool training nine times a week. These are in addition to two hours of weightlifting and three hours of core-strength training away from water.
Lochte has truly come a long way since his first Olympics in Athens, where he had finished second to Phelps in the trials. Now he is being hyped as the usurper to Phelps’ throne; Time and Vogue recently made him their cover boy. Surely he would repay this attention by never settling for second fiddle again.