Tyler Clary competes in the men's 200-meter butterfly heats. (Martin Bureau / AFP/Getty…)
LONDON -- In an era in which athletes are coached to speak in cliche, Tyler Clary set off a firestorm in the swimming world by offering a blunt opinion about Michael Phelps, the man with more gold medals than anyone in Olympic history.
Clary trained with Phelps for a year at the University of Michigan. On the eve of the Olympics, Clary told his hometown newspaper that the hype surrounding Phelps' work ethic does not square with reality.
"I saw a real lack of preparation," Clary told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
He added: "I saw somebody that has basically been asking to get beat for the longest time."
Clary apologized to Phelps, and to the entire U.S. team for the distraction, but the results in the pool speak louder than any words. So Clary, in the one and only event in which he will compete against Phelps, posted a faster time than Phelps in Monday's qualifying heats of the 200-meter butterfly.
"It's only prelims," Clary said. "It doesn't matter. Everybody has their own way of playing the prelims. Some people show all their cards. Some don't."
The semifinals of the event are set for Monday night, with the finals on Tuesday.
Phelps is the world record holder and defending world champion in the event. He brought the same credentials into the 400-meter individual medley, in which he finished fourth.
"I don't think it had anything to do with confidence," Phelps said. "I felt ready to swim. Once I got in the race, it just didn't happen."
Phelps did not attend the opening ceremony on Friday because he had an event the following morning. Clary did not swim until Monday, so he was there.
"The opening ceremony was far and away the coolest thing I've ever done in my life," Clary said.
He joked that the swimmers tried to "hang out near the NBA players, so we could get on TV."
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