Race video is courtesy of Universal Sports Network, a SwimSwam Partner.
So, he’s officially back. Michael Phelps showed that he’s certainly ‘in the hunt’ in his first competitive final since the 2012 Summer Olympics with a 52.13 in the men’s 100 fly at the 2014 Mesa Grand Prix. There, he raced to 5th in the world, but lost to his rival Ryan Lochte, who was a 51.93 (#2 in the world).
This is sort of a reboot of the rivalry between two swimmers on the tail ends of their careers, but two who are still the most famous swimmers in the United States by far. No longer will their battles be in the 200 IM or the 400 IM; instead, it seems like the matchups are more likely to come in this 100 fly and the 100 free.
But that reboot is a positive one, as these races have a different feel than the IM’s. When listening to them talk, it’s clear that at this point of their careers, these two guys really enjoy their new lives as sprinters.
Phelps and Lochte are good for each other. When interacting with each other, we see both of them sort of drop their PR-produced personas a little bit. After the race, during the interview, the two were joking with each other, and Phelps momentarily let some of his real personality slip through, before going back to his famous polished responses about having fun. Likewise, Lochte likes to be a good role model for the kids, talk about hard work, but when talking about his race with Phelps, he let a few playful barbs slip Phelps’ way.
These two are still the faces of our sport, even within sight of their 30th birthdays, and the interplay between them is great for swimming. Races like the above are great for swimming – showing that Phelps is still an awesome swimmer, but then showing that others are capable of being just as awesome, that’s good for the sport.