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It’s no surprise then when Lochte struggles to swim well in Indianapolis. It isn’t just the fingers. His entire body is broken down. He wins just two medals — both bronze — and fails to qualify for the A finals in the 100 free and 100 fly. Afterward, he tells a group of reporters he isn’t worried. He knows where he’s at in his training. It’s a learning moment. But a few minutes later, when the cameras are off, ask Lochte if that’s the truth, if he’s really OK with losing and seeing Phelps stand atop the podium while he heads to the cool-down pool.
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Ryan Lochte is trying to balance the demands in and out of the pool.
“No,” Lochte says. “Not at all. I hate it. I honestly hate it. If you don’t hate losing, then you have to find another sport. It’s no fun.”
Boiled down to its simplest form, swimming is a test of pain. How much hurt are you willing to endure to win a gold medal? That’s the question that Lochte, Phelps and everyone else in the water will answer in London this summer. That’s the verdict we all are waiting for. Who has put in the time and work? And who is willing to hurt? Those close to Lochte are confident in the answer.
“What Phelps did was amazing,” Devon says. “But I don’t care if he won eight gold medals. If he’s beating Ryan by an arm’s length, turn your head. Ryan is going to win. There’s just something in his brain that snaps and says, ‘F— it,’ I’m winning.’ It isn’t normal.”
For the past few months, Lochte has told anyone who will listen that he believes the time is his. He has all the respect in the world for Phelps. But he doesn’t plan on being the co-star in the final chapter of the Michael Phelps story. Instead, he believes this is his show. He hasn’t spent four years of Sundays with DeLancey, four years of wrestling with what he should and shouldn’t give up, only to lose in the end.
Of course, the greatest swimmer who ever lived will have something to say about that. He already has, in a way, as word of Lochte’s confidence trickled back to Camp Phelps.