Day 6 Finals Preview: Phelps vs Lochte One More Time


For the fourth and final time Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will go head-to-head in the men’s 200 IM Olympic final, in what has been the greatest rivalry in our sport for the last decade.

Lochte has never beaten Phelps in this event on the Olympic stage, but has beaten him elsewhere. He has won four straight World Championship titles in the event, beating Phelps in 2011 (as Phelps was absent for the other three) in what still stands as the world record of 1:54.00. Phelps swam his best ever time in that race, going 1:54.16, but came up short for gold.

What has hindered Lochte in this race on the Olympic stage in the past has been a combination of things. First, Phelps innate ability to perform on the biggest stage, and second, Lochte has always had the 200 back final earlier in the session of the 200 IM final (except 2004, where Lochte was just coming onto the scene).

Though he won’t have that conflict tonight, Lochte hasn’t shown the best form this year and will be in tough to take down Phelps who has looked exceptional here in Rio thus far. The one Olympics where Lochte probably could’ve beat Phelps without that 200 back was 2012, where he was still 1:54.90 for silver not long after a tough 200 back.

Despite the shaky last year or so, Lochte went a very controlled 1:56.28 in the semis, less than half a second slower than he went to win the World title last year. Phelps took the top seed in what looked like one of the easiest 1:55s ever.

Both men have towered over the competition since 2004, but tonight they’ll both be challenged for gold by a relatively new foe.

Japan’s Kosuke Hagino beat Phelps head-to-head at the 2014 Pan Pacs by two one-hundredths of a second, and tied the time Lochte put up in the B-final (only the top two Americans in the prelims advance to the final at that meet). Hagino then put up a time of 1:55.07 at the Japanese Olympic Trials, the top time in the world this year. He started off this meet strong, with a win in the 400 IM, and will pose a threat to both, maybe the biggest threat they’ve had over the last decade.

Phelps, Lochte and Hagino will swim in lanes 4, 5 and 6 tonight, with Brazil’s Thiago Pereira in lane 3, probably the only other man in the field capable of snagging a medal.

If Phelps wins, it will be his record fourth consecutive gold medal in the event. It would be the most among any swimmer, and would tie Carl Lewis (long jump) and Al Oerter (discus throw) for the most all-time among any Olympic athlete.

We’ll also see finals tonight in the women’s 200 breast, men’s 200 back and women’s 100 free.

The women’s 200 breast is completely wide open. Australia’s Taylor McKeown led the way in the semis posting a time of 2:21.69, but all other seven finalists went 2:22-something yesterday making it anyones game. The two favorites as of now would have to be McKeown, along with Japan’s Rie Kaneto who is the only woman in the field who has been under 2:20 in the past twelve months.

Like we saw in the men’s 200 breast, where Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Balandin won out of lane 8, anything can happen in the Olympic final, especially when the field is so tightly bunched.

The men’s 200 back also figures to be a very tight one, with the top four seeds coming into finals separated by just four tenths.

Defending world champion Mitch Larkin had a disappointing performance in the 100 back, missing the medals in 4th, and will look to redeem himself tonight.

Ryan Murphy is coming off a huge win in the 100 back, posting the fastest textile time in history, and will definitely be tough to beat. His American teammate Jacob Pebley has also looked strong here in Rio, posting a time of 1:54.92 in the semis that is not far off his best of 1:54.77 from Trials and puts him right into medal contention.

But none of those men qualified 1st last night. That went to Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, who went 1:54.45. A relative unknown to the swimming world, Rylov shocked many winning bronze at last summers World Championships. He then went even faster at the Russian Olympic Trials in 1:54.21, giving him a definite shot at gold.

Rylov will swim in lane 4 tonight, surrounded by Pebley and Larkin in lanes 3 and 5, while Murphy will be out in lane 6. The Chinese duo of Xu Jiayu and Li Guangyuan swimming in lanes 2 and 7 should not be overlooked, and 2012 silver medalist Ryosuke Irie of Japan lurks out in lane 1.

The fourth final of the night is the women’s 100 freestyle, and what a lineup we have there. The field is stacked top to bottom, highlighted by world record holder Cate Campbell, 2015 world champion Bronte Campbell, and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Ranomi Kromowidjojo.

Joining them will be 2015 World silver medalist Sarah Sjostrom and Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiakwho broke the world junior record last night to qualify 2nd for tonight’s final. Americans Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil will also be there, and have both looked good so far in Rio. Butterfly specialist Jeanette Ottesen rounds out the final.

It’s hard to bet against the world record holder Cate Campbell, as she’s shown superb form here, but keep an eye on Oleksiak who had by far and away the fastest closing 50 of all the semi-finalists. This one figures to be a classic.

Along with those four finals, we’ll see three different rounds of semi-finals tonight. Let’s take a quick look:

  • Last year’s World gold and silver medalists Florent Manaudou and Nathan Adrian go head-to-head in the first semi-final of the men’s 50 free, joined by 2013 World silver medalist Vladimir Morozov and last night’s 4th place finisher in the 100 free Santo Condorelli. In the second semi we’ll see the top seed Andriy Govorov of Ukraine, along with Anthony Ervin (USA), Cameron McEvoy (AUS) and Brazilian hopeful Bruno Fratus. Tightly bunched this morning, look for somewhere around 21.8 needed to advance to the final.
  • The first semi-final of the women’s 200 back will feature 2015 World Champion Emily Seebohm way out in lane 2 as she continues to try and locate her form here in Rio. Canada’s Hilary Caldwell was the 2nd fastest overall this morning in 2:07.40 and will have lane 4. Semi-final number two will have the two previous Olympic champions swimming in lanes 2 and 7, with Kirsty Coventry (2004, 2008) and Missy Franklin (2012) both needing big swims here to advance to the final. Swimming in the middle of the pool will be Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and USA’s Maya Dirado, both of whom have been on superb form so far at these Games.
  • Laszlo Cseh and Michael Phelps headline semi-final 1 of the men’s 100 fly, joined by two-time World Championship medalist Konrad Czerniak of Poland. The second semi will have Singapore’s Joseph Schooling in lane 4 after throwing down the top time of the morning in 51.41. Also competing in this semi are Chad Le ClosTom Shields and Mehdy Metlella.


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4 years ago

If Phelps ties Carl Lewis for the consecutive event win streak, I think they should have a National Anthem sing-off to break the tie.

Reply to  swimdoc
4 years ago

Carl Lewis doped.

Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
4 years ago

And sang off key.

Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
4 years ago

Michael Phelps cups.

4 years ago

I really hope Phelps can challenge the world record tonight. I’m staying up until stupid o clock here in Scotland to watch, and if he does it, I am reserving the right to cry like a baby for the rest of the night.

Reply to  TheRealBertie
4 years ago

Would you cry if he doesn’t as well?

4 years ago

Any Streaming link like yesterday?

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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