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Lochte steals Missy's thunder

2013-08-03 10:05
Ryan Lochte (Getty Images)

Barcelona - It was meant to be Missy Franklin's night, but it turned out to be Ryan Lochte's.

Going into Friday's evening session at the 15th FINA world championships in Barcelona, the 18-year-old Franklin, who has become the face of American swimming - youthful, energetic and very successful - needed just one more gold to equal the record of five at an individual meet.

Libby Trickett (then known as Libby Lenton) won five for Australia in 2007 in Melbourne, while American Tracy Caulkins managed that in 1978.

Friday was going to be the night where Franklin was going to follow suit, adding the 100m freestyle to the four medals she had already won.

At the end of the session though, it was not Franklin that everybody was raving about, but Ryan Lochte.

Franklin had finished fourth in the 100m freestyle, which was won by Australian Cate Campbell (though she did swim the fastest time in the semi-finals of the 200m backstroke), while Lochte's record from three swims in the evening read: two gold medals and a win in a semi-final with the fastest time.

At 18:09 (GMT), Lochte swam in the final of the men's 200m backstroke, winning in a time of one minute 53.79 seconds.

At 19:08 he swam in the semi-finals of the men's 100m butterfly, an event he has never attempted at this level.

Swimming against him was the South African Chad le Clos, who famously beat Michael Phelps in the final of the London Olympics in the 200m butterfly and was beaten only by Phelps in the 100m.

Lochte was obviously not particularly impressed with Le Close's reputation and swam a 51.48 - 0.04 seconds faster than the South African and well knowing that all he needed to do was finish in the top eight to qualify for Sunday's final.

Some 45 minutes later he was again in the thick of things as a member of his country's 4x200m freestyle relay team. Conor Dwyer, who opened for the Americans, touched as third 0.60 seconds behind the leading Russians.

Lochte then swam and when he touched, the US were leading and the Russians were 0.73 behind.

His split of 1:44.98 was beaten only by China's anchor, Sun Yang, who powered his way through the field to take his team from fifth to the bronze medal.

Lochte's relay performance capped an astonishing comeback for a swimmer who had arrived in Barcelona with everybody expecting him to take over Phelps' mantle.

Lochte's preparations going into the championships had not been the best as he had started training late after spending several weeks filming a reality TV show: What would Ryan Lochte do.

A different kind of reality set in on the first day already, when the US and Lochte were beaten in the 4x100m freestyle relay by France. Worse was to follow the next day, when Lochte finished outside the medals in the 200m freestyle - beaten not only by France's Yannick Agnel, but also by team-mate Dwyer and Russian Danila Izotov.

It was then that Lochte decided that something needed to be done.

He decided that he actually cared too much about his swims and doing well.

"I was not the real Ryan Lochte. I suddenly worried about how I was going to swim, whether I was going to win and with what time."

He said he then decided to bring back the old Ryan Lochte.

"The one who does not care. The one who just gets on the blocks and takes on the guys next to him, I am a racer and that is what I do best."

The transformation worked wonders as Lochte suddenly found his form again, racing to victory in the 200m individual medley and lining up his starring role in front of nearly 10,000 fans in the Palau Sant Jordi in Friday night's session.

He admitted that it had not been easy.

"It was so painful. I do not want to do that again. The triple was not what I was thinking about. I was just focusing on my first race, after that my second, and my third, one race at the time."

Lochte said that he had no option but to perform in the relay.

"No matter the outcome in the first and second races, I had to pull it together for Team USA.

"When you are in a relay, you don't care about the pain, you don't care about anything like that. You just get up there and put together a good race for the other guys."

And that is certainly something that Ryan Lochte did and that is why Missy Franklin's night belonged to Ryan Lochte.


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