Vichy (France): American swimmer Michael Phelps warmed up for the London Olympics on Saturday in France, laughing and cracking jokes with teammates and 2,000 spectators who watched him in training.
“Everyone is smiling, everyone is making jokes,” said Phelps at an open public session in the swimming centre at Vichy. “We are all very excited, we all laugh a lot in and around the pool.”
Phelps was the star attraction in Saturday’s session along with Ryan Lochte and teenage sensation Missy Franklin. Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and six gold and two bronze medals at the 2004 Athens Games, will participate in the seven events at the London Olympics.
“Obviously, we always want to do our best and swim the fastest, they are the main objectives,” added Phelps, who hopes to set a new record at the London Olympics.
Three more medals will make him the most successful Olympian of all time, beating the 18 won between 1956 and 1964 by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina. But one Ryan Lochte can put a huge hole in Phelps’s dreams.
Lochte has been building toward the London Games since he walked away from Beijing dissatisfied four years ago. His results — two gold medals, two bronze, a couple of world records and the first individual title of his Olympic career — would be more than enough for most swimmers.
But not for Lochte. He changed his diet and intensified his training in and out of the water to swim faster. The results started coming.
Last summer, Lochte won five gold, one bronze and set the first world record since high-tech body suits were banned over eight days at the world championships. Most notably, he beat Phelps in both their match-ups.
Now, the triple Olympic champion is gearing up to challenge Phelps in the 200m and 400m relays in London.
Speaking about their rivalry, Phelps said: “I don’t want him to win. He doesn’t want me to win. It’s kind of like when we step on the pool deck, that’s our field, our battlefield, and we do everything we can to try to get our hands on the wall first.”
Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, questions how much the rivalry fuels Phelps. “The main competition is himself. I think he’s spurred on by having people to race, I think he likes that,” Bowman said. “But I think the primary measure of success is did he hit the time he wanted to hit.”
Lochte, on the other hand, said: “I always feel like I can win everything. It’s just how my mind works. I know I can win and I know I can swim multiple events back-to-back and I think that's what keeps me going.”
However, Lochte cast himself as the underdog. “I knock myself down to the bottom of the totem pole. He (Phelps) will always be there no matter what," Lochte said. (Agencies)