Phelps' return to 400 IM draws applause

Coach Bowman pleased — and so is Phelps' rival Lochte

August 18, 2010|By Tribune Newspapers

IRVINE, Calif. — Ah, the good old days…

Turning our lonely eyes to Aussie legends Thorpey and Klimey and remembering how American Gary Hall Jr. once set off a firestorm when he spoke about smashing the Australians like guitars.

You might say with Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim and Hall now retired that the vaunted Aussie-U.S. swim rivalry has landed in the remainder bin.

Not exactly.

How about relocated?

It all has, in a sense, gone more global, a fact expected to be fully on display with competitors from 21 countries on hand at the Pan Pacific Championships. The meet, which serves as one of the qualifiers for next year's World Championships, runs today through Sunday.

Still, the foundation for localization, aka Team USA intrigue, was put down Monday when Michael Phelps, who lives in Fells Point, said he was planning to swim in the 400-meter individual medley, an event he had seemingly shelved for good after winning it in Beijing at the Olympics.

This pleased, not only his mother, Debbie, and coach, Bob Bowman, but also teammate Ryan Lochte, who won the 400 IM at the nationals in Irvine earlier this month.

"Now he's back swimming and I don't have to call him names," Lochte said, joking.

And what were those names when Phelps was sitting out the 400 IM?

"I can't really say," Lochte said.

Bowman knew there was a chance the very slight opening for the 400 IM could turn into something bigger when he noticed Phelps paying close attention to the event at the nationals, eying Lochte and second-place finisher Tyler Clary.

"He was very interested in that race — that made me feel good," Bowman said. "I'm thinking if they had both gone 4:08, it would be like, 'Uh, maybe not.'"

Said Phelps: "Figure, why not give it a shot? Like I said before, I'm probably not in the best shape I want to be to swim that race. We'll see if we can make worlds. And if we can make worlds I'll know what to do to put my body in shape for next summer to be able to swim the kind of times and level I want to swim."

In a sense, the Lochte vs. Phelps rivalry became time-stamped Aug.6 when Lochte beat Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley, the first time Phelps had lost to him in a medley event, long course, at a major meet.

But Lochte is still trying to adopt the mentality of the chase, not only in the medley events.

"I feel like, no matter what, even if I do beat him, I always feel like I'm not on top," Lochte said. "No matter what. I'm always putting myself down. I'm always saying … everyone is still faster than me. It helps me because I feel like I'm the underdog. I'm the hunter instead of being the hunted."

They will race in the 400 IM on Thursday and the 200 IM on Saturday.

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