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Is Ryan Lochte the man to bring down Phelps?

Despite the media focus on Michael Phelps as an unbeatable competitor in the Beijing Games, his teammate – and friend – Ryan Lochte remains unfazed. 'I always feel I can beat him,' Lochte says of Phelps.
/ Source: TODAY

There are many swimmers who step up to the blocks alongside Michael Phelps and feel they are racing for second place.

Ryan Lochte is not one of those swimmers.

“I always feel I can beat him whenever I go up against him, or any other swimmer for that matter,” the 24-year-old shrugged with the laid-back attitude that has come to define him.

While walking around Beijing, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone can come remotely close to beating Phelps, whose face is plastered on walls and banners throughout the city. But Lochte has more than an outside chance of spoiling the storyline of the Olympic Games on the opening weekend of competition.

On Saturday, Lochte and Phelps will continue their historic duel in the 400 IM, a race that brought an arena to its feet during the trials in Omaha, Neb. Both swimmers broke the previous world record, Phelps touching the wall in 4:05.25, Lochte just a hair behind in 4:06.08. 

“Without him next to me I probably wouldn’t have gone that fast,” Phelps told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “I think we both bring the best out of each other. He definitely brings the best out of me.”

Phelps has been described as straight-laced and corporate, while Lochte is known as one of the most mischievous members of Team USA. Despite their differences, the pair has developed a close friendship over the years, perhaps rooted in the fact that they are arguably the two most dominant swimmers in the world today.

Phelps’ accomplishments, and every detail of his quest to win more gold medals (for a total of eight) than any other athlete in a single games, are well-chronicled. On the other hand, very few realize Lochte is within striking distance of winning three golds; he is competing in the 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 backstroke and three relays. All Lochte has to do is upset the most dominant swimmer in the history of the sport. 

“It helps because he is Michael Phelps. He is what everyone says he is — he is the best swimmer ever. And I want to be that,” Lochte said. “Everyone knows Michael Phelps, so I let him get all the publicity, let him get all the media attention and I’m just kinda on my own path. I don’t know when the time comes. It’s going to happen soon.”

Perhaps it will be during the finals of the 400 IM on Sunday, when Lochte might have a secret weapon under his belt. During that electrifying lead-up race at trials, when he finished within less than a second of Phelps, Lochte was competing with an ankle injury (reportedly sustained while skateboarding).

“Over camp my ankle got a lot stronger and I worked on my turns, so hopefully that will be the deciding factor of me winning,” Lochte said. No matter what the results, Lochte added, the swimming world is in for a treat on the first weekend of competition.

“Hopefully me and Michael will put on a show for the rest of the swimmers,” he said.