Swimming's top rivals, whose battle for top dog has made for riveting drama every time they swim at the Olympic qualifying trials going on here this week, often are in the primo real estate in the pool. They're in the center lanes, reserved for the top seeds, right next to each other and, apparently, unable to keep their eyes off one another.
Kinda bromantic, maybe, but it's cutting into their speeds, according to Phelps' coach Bob Bowman. Actually, Phelps himself brought it up first, on Wednesday night after he beat Lochte in the 200-meter freestyle race. Which in the back-and-forth of their rivalry came a couple days after Lochte beat Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley.
"I find that when we're next to each other we kind of play cat and mouse, you know, like we don't just sort of jump out after it," Phelps said. He was referring to the slowish pace of the first of the four legs of the race, which is what he and Lochte were joking about on the winner's platform before getting their medals. They and the third- and fourth-place finishers Ricky Berens and Conor Dwyer qualified for the London Games.
"I guess, like we have in the past, we kind of see what each other does and play it out by feel the first couple of laps," Phelps said, "and then ... we just put every ounce of energy into the last 50 that we can and need to."
Bowman picked up on this later, seemingly eager to get off his chest why this is not a good thing.
"Ryan and Michael, when they're next to each other, they are so focused on racing each other, they do stuff like tonight, not take it out so fast," Bowman said. "Because tonight Michael got ahead, and he was like, 'Well, I'm ahead of Ryan, I'm okay.' And then Ryan is just waiting to make his move, and he makes his move and they do the cat and mouse stuff, and in the process of that they forgot to swim fast."