LONDON – Michael Phelps got one back. The duel in the pool is officially a draw.
After losing to Ryan Lochte in their head-to-head battle in the 400 individual medley, Phelps roared back to edge his rival in the shorter 200 IM, giving the U.S. a gold and silver finish in the event. Phelps just missed breaking his Olympic record in the event by four-hundredths of a second, but had enough in the tank to maintain the lead throughout the race and hold Lochte off in the final meters. Phelps took gold in 1:54.27, while Lochte came in at 1:54.90, after taking bronze in the 200-meter backstroke 31 minutes earlier.
"I told Ryan in the ready room [before the swim], this is our last 200 together ever," Phelps said. "We were just joking around about it. Ryan has probably been one of the toughest competitors I've ever swam against."
It also appears to be the last time the two will team up in these Olympics. Lochte said after the race that his Olympics has wrapped and that he won't be swimming in the preliminary heats or finals of the 400 IM relay, which had remained a possibility.
That leaves Lochte's medal count for these Olympics at an impressive five – including golds in the 400 IM and 4x200 freestyle relay, two silvers in the 4x100 freestyle relay and Thursday's 200 IM, and a bronze earlier Thursday night in the 200 backstroke. Lochte's career Olympic medal count now stands at an impressive eleven – five gold, three silver and three bronze – the second most ever (next to Phelps) amongst male Olympians.
Thursday's 200 IM looked remarkably similar to the one Phelps won in Beijing in 2008, as he took command quickly and never faded. Phelps and Lochte also both took podium spots in 2008 – gold and bronze respectively – in a race that saw Phelps set the world record in the event. Hungary's Laszlo Cseh took the silver in 2008 and bronze on Thursday.
Criticized for having a "rough" Games earlier in the week, Phelps has rebounded and begun to show the form that helped him dominate in 2008. He now has four medals at these Games – another gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay and two silvers in the 4x100 free relay and 200 butterfly. His career medal count also has been pushed to 20, with two races remaining including Friday's drama-packed 100-meter butterfly, in which Phelps will be the top seed. He could exact some revenge on South Africa's Chad Le Clos, who out-touched Phelps in the 200 fly. The final also will include Serbia's Milorad Cavic, who Phelps famously out-touched in the event by a hundredth of a second for gold in Beijing.
Phelps is expected to close his Olympic career with a swim in the 400 IM relay on Saturday. The U.S. is the defending gold medal team in the event, having taken the top of the podium in Beijing in 2008.
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