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BEIJING 2008

The dream matchup: Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte

August 09, 2008|John Cherwa, Orlando Sentinel

You may not be that familiar with Ryan Lochte, but he's the best swimmer in the world whose name is not Michael Phelps. Talk about bad luck; if he'd been born at a slightly different time he would be a swimming superstar. Instead he's known as the guy who finishes second to Phelps. With swimming starting today in Beijing, it seemed like a great time to assess their rivalry. And, if you miss the qualifiers in the 400 IM, the main event, the final, is Sunday in prime time (7 p.m. PDT).

PHELPS FILE

* Phelps is going for the title of best swimmer ever by trying for eight gold medals, one more than Mark Spitz. He came close in Athens in 2004 by winning six golds and two bronzes. At the 2007 worlds, he won seven golds (his relay team was disqualified). He'll be swimming in the 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, 4x100 relay, 4x200 relay and 4x100 medley relay. He's from Baltimore but lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he attends Michigan.

LOCHTE LOWDOWN

* Lochte may be a great overall swimmer, but he's a fabulous backstroker. He is the world-record holder in the 200 back, which he set in the 2007 world championships. He won two golds and three silvers there. In Athens he finished second in the 200 IM behind you- know-who and was a gold- medal winner in the 4x200 relay. He plans to swim in four events here: the 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 backstroke and 4x200 relay. He is from Daytona Beach, Fla., and lives in Gainesville, where he attends Florida.

THE BATTLEGROUND

* The person who wins the individual medley (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) can lay claim to being the best swimmer in the world. It is contested over two distances, 200 and 400 meters. Phelps is the world-record holder in both events, and Lochte has the second-fastest time in both events.

WHO HAS THE EDGE

*--* EVENT PHELPS LOCHTE BUTTERFLY X BACKSTROKE X BREASTSTROKE X FREESTYLE X *--*

* Buzz: Clearly, for Lochte to win, he needs to be way ahead after the breaststroke.

WHO'S GOING TO WIN

* Well, what fun would it be to predict the world-record holder and greatest swimmer on the planet to win? So look at it this way: Lochte is every bit as good a swimmer as Phelps. The difference is Phelps is superior on the turns, exploding off the wall. His dolphin kick is superb. In the past, Lochte has been prone to physical mishaps before competition, but this time he's clean. Lochte wins by a heartbeat.

PHELPS ON LOCHTE

From Men's Journal:

"It's business. We're trying to see who can get their hand on the wall first. We never talk about it."

LOCHTE ON PHELPS

From the Orlando Sentinel:

"If he wasn't in the sport of swimming, I don't think I would be as fast or doing what I'm capable of doing."

WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE SECOND

In honor of Lochte, a list of other second bananas.

Buffalo Bills

* Not known for success but losing four Super Bowls

Susan Lucci

* Lost 18 times before winning a daytime Emmy

"Star Wars"

* Didn't win best picture Oscar in 1977, that was "Annie Hall"

Al Gore

* Won the popular vote for president in 2000 but lost the electoral vote

Chris Tucker

* An American star in "Rush Hour" films but no Jackie Chan

- John Cherwa, Orlando Sentinel

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