After the swimming world got to witness one of the most exciting races lat month at the Mesa Grand Prix between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, the wait for the Charlotte Grand Prix seemed like an eternity. However, here we are on day one of the meet, where Phelps swam not one but two races, and the excitement, fun, and smiles we saw in Mesa don’t seem to be replicating.
The two races Phelps competed in this morning were supposed to be accompanied by his rival/friend/co-swimming superstar Ryan Lochte. As we all know, Dave Marsh decided to scratch him from the meet in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the rest of the summer. But while a swimmer’s health is a first priority, the absence of the Phelps-Lochte showdown in Charlotte seems to have taken a toll on lone superstar, Phelps.
If you look at any sport, rivalries bring out the best in every athlete. Everyone wants to come out on top and claim bragging rights, and let’s not forget the fun in all of it. This is the exact situation that Phelps was swimming in at the Mesa Grand Prix. Knowing that Lochte was the first guy under 53 in prelims gave him an extra push to be right there with him; and the results proved it. Phelps swam a sharp and controlled 52.84 that morning. Compare that to his 53.26 touch-out by Pavel Sankovich today in Charlotte in prelims, though his coach Bob Bowman was very pleased with the result despite being a slower time.
The times are enough to prove that Phelps thrives when he has his co-star is swimming with him. But if that wasn’t enough, the look on Phelps’ face after the race told the same story. The smile-less and laugh-less Olympian didn’t look pleased after the swim and looked as though he couldn’t find the fun in that 53.26.
This is where the true importance of rivalries in swimming lies. While we all know these two swimmers can put up insane times individually, it’s when they’re racing each other you get to see the fun, competitive spirit, as well as the mind-boggling times shine through. Swimming needs its superstars. They make excitement levels go through the roof, sell out sessions, and show why swimming is one of the most exhilarating sports out there: case and point: when the entire sports world headlined Phelps’ comeback last month. However, they left a significant piece of it out: the rivalry that got renewed.