LONDON — Michael Phelps spent the day thinking about all the things he’s doing for the final time at the pool. It turns out that included one last win over Ryan Lochte.
Phelps finally got a gold all his own at his final Olympics.
Adding to an already unprecedented medal collection, he claimed his first individual victory of the London Games and handed Lochte a double disappointment on his rival’s final night in the pool Thursday.
Phelps set the tone right from the start with a dominating butterfly leg to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three consecutive Olympics in the 200-meter individual medley. He claimed his 20th career medal – and 16th gold – in 1 minute, 54.27 seconds, just off his winning time in Beijing but still good enough for gold, ahead of Lochte.
“Once it’s all over, it’s going to really hit me emotionally,” he said.
Phelps has now won two golds and two silvers in five races.
Lochte settled for silver in 1:54.90.having split with Phelps in their two head-to-head races in London.
Lochte faded to bronze in the 200 backstroke behind fellow American Tyler Clary.
“I wanted to get all golds in my events, but you know it didn’t happen,” Lochte said. “For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied.”
While Lochte couldn’t hold on in the backstroke, it was still quite a night for the Americans. Clary rallied on the final lap to pull off the upset in an Olympic-record 1:53.41.
Rebecca Soni made quite a splash, too, on a night dominated by the Phelps-Lochte showdown.
Soni set her second world record in as many days to defend her Olympic title in the 200 breaststroke. She finished in 2:19.59, breaking her own mark of 2:20.00 set in the semifinals.
“It’s been my goal since I was a little kid to go under 2:20,” Soni said.
Last year, Lochte looked as though he had surpassed Phelps at the top of the swimming world when he captured five gold medals at the world championships. The Floridian didn’t come close to that total at the Olympics, also failing to defend his Olympic title in the 200 back.
Lochte won his first race of the Olympics with a dominating performance in the 400 IM on the opening night of swimming, but that was his biggest highlight. He faded badly in the anchor leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay, leaving the Americans with a silver, and he finished off the podium in the 200 free.
He did join Phelps in picking up a relay gold in the 4x200 free relay, but never really caught up with him when they competed one-on-one.
“We’ve been racing for eight years now and the rivalry we created has been tremendous for the sport and our friendship,” Lochte said. “I’m going to miss him.”