OMAHA, NEB. — While the vaunted rivalry between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will continue to play out as the Olympic qualifying trials continue in Omaha, on Monday night, it was Lochte's turn in the spotlight.
He won the 400-meter individual medley, although Phelps as the second place finisher also goes to London in the event. And, in fact, Phelps got a first, which he said is one of his motivations as he tries for one more Olympics: He became the first American male swimmer to qualify for four Olympics.
Lochte didn't take his win as an opportunity to declare victory in the race to dominate the sport, or even to characterize the 400 IM win as a statement sent across the bow.
"It's a rivalry we've had for almost eight years now, and we just have been switching back and forth," Lochte said. "It's hard to say who is the best swimmer, because we're both great racers, and we have been going back and forth for so long, it's hard to say."
And, much as it's been with Phelps' mother, Debbie, a Baltimore County middle school principal, it appears Lochte's mother Ileana will be drawn increasingly into the spotlight. His mother, a swimmer who was born and raised in Havana, and his father Steve were his first swimming coaches.
Lochte said he heard his mother before he saw her as he step off the winner's podium.
"She was bawling her eyes out and I was like, 'Mom!' She is definitely not afraid to show her emotions," he said. "She said, 'Thank God you made it so we're not going to London by ourselves.'"