For a guy who competes barefoot, Ryan Lochte really likes shoes.
After winning the 200-meter individual medley Sunday at the U.S. National Championships, Lochte said he owns about 190 pairs and showed off a psychedelic pair of winged sneakers as flashy as the star-studded race itself.
Lochte won the national title in 1 minute 56.50 seconds, edging — you may have heard of him — Michael Phelps. The most decorated Olympian of all time finished second in 1:56.55.
FOR THE RECORD:
Swimming: An article and results listing in the Aug. 11 Sports section said that Simone Manuel won the women's 50-meter freestyle in the U.S. National Championships in 24.89 seconds. Her winning time was 24.56. —
“It's all because of the shoes,” Lochte said.
Two other Olympic gold medalists, Tyler Clary and Conor Dwyer, finished third and fourth in the race at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.
Lochte led at each split. His time of 24.91 after the butterfly leg had him .02 of a second off a world-record pace.
Lochte and Phelps kept the race intense from start to finish.
“Me and Michael, we don't train together, but we know that when we're back home, we're training, so we push each other,” Lochte said. “That's the best part about our rivalry.”
Phelps surged in the closing freestyle leg, but his 27.21 split wasn't enough to catch Lochte, whose final split was 28.76.
“I felt pretty good, so maybe that's a sign I should be doing 200s instead of 100s,” Phelps said, tongue in cheek. “I felt good coming home. I actually didn't feel like it was as painful as some of the 100s were.”
Although Phelps has won the last three Olympic gold medals in the event, Lochte owns the world record.
Phelps held the world mark from 2003 to 2009, resetting his record seven times during that span. Lochte broke Phelps' record in 2009, then set the current mark of 1:54.00 at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai.
But it was Dwyer who swam the fastest time in the morning's prelims — 1:57.41. Dwyer made his first Olympic appearance in 2012 in London, where he won gold as part of the 800 freestyle relay team.
Phelps and Lochte raced in the same qualifier, and the meet's announcer noted near the end of the heat that the two appeared to be saving energy for the evening final. They cruised to the finish in 1:58.74 and 1:59.05, the swimming equivalent of a saunter for the elite pair.
After the preliminary race, Phelps and Lochte — sometimes head-to-head competitors, sometimes relay teammates — hugged in the pool.
Both are on comeback tours of sorts. Phelps retired after the London Olympics but couldn't stay out of the pool. Lochte is returning from a 2013 knee injury that significantly disrupted his training schedule.
Earlier in the week, Phelps dropped to seventh after misjudging the wall in the 100 free, then finished sixth in the 100 backstroke and second in one of his marquee events, the 100 butterfly, by a fingernail.
Lochte finished second in the 100 free, third in the 200 backstroke and fifth in the 100 butterfly.
Sunday's race, the last of the week for Phelps and Lochte, looked more like old times in terms of their performances and competitiveness.
“I'm a lot happier with finishing like that than finishing with some of the subpar performances that I've had throughout the final sessions at this meet,” Phelps said.
“This is really good for me, getting a win under my belt at this meet, because it was hard throughout this whole year,” Lochte said. “My confidence wasn't really there, just because I always relied on my training because that's what I do all year, and I know it's going to be there at the end of the summer. But this year, I haven't done that training.”
It's a two-year haul to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, but Phelps and Lochte sparked some Olympic fever in Irvine.
UCLA's Katy Campbell made a late push and won the women's 1,500-meter freestyle in 16:17.59.
In the women's 200 individual medley, Melanie Margalis won with the third-fastest time in the world this year, 2:10.20.
Simone Manuel, 18, won the women's 50 free in 24.89. Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, finished sixth.