Michael Phelps departed the mixed zone, leaving behind four words.
“Losses always motivate me,” he said.
Words rarely uttered by Phelps because the losses happen so infrequently, and certainly not in the individual medley events.
But long-time rival Ryan Lochte not only upset Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley, he did so in a decisive manner, winning in 1 minute 54.84 seconds at the U.S. national championships in Irvine on Friday night.
Phelps was second in 1:55.94 and Tyler Clary third in 1:59.19. It was the first time Lochte beat Phelps in a major national or international meet.
“That hurt, holy crap,” Phelps said. “I was saying to Ryan when we were sitting in the pool, I was like, ‘Dude, I think about 20 meters left, I just saw you pass me like I was standing still.’ I kind of ran into a brick wall.”
Said Lochte: “I’ve beaten him before, but this is my first, I guess, like, big national meet. It feels good.”
Phelps’ winning streak in championship races in the 200 individual medley (long-course meters) had stood at 38, and he had defeated Lochte 17 straight times.
Phelps had been aiming for the 1:55 range but didn’t quite expect his body to shut down the way it did. Lochte took the lead on the breaststroke leg and put down the hammer on the freestyle leg.
“Just physically I felt like my body shut down,” Phelps said. “My legs, and I felt like I couldn’t turn over my arms. When I came off the wall, I tried to do an underwater kick and it really didn’t work so well. I was just hoping the wall was going to come as fast as it could.”