LONDON---Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte: The Sequel.
The two American swimming heavyweights face off for the second and final time in the Olympics on Thursday, one day after Phelps got a surprise telephone call from President Obama.
“The craziest thing was just, I answered the phone and they were like, ‘Michael?’ and I said, ‘Yes’ and they said, ‘Please hold for the president of the United States,’ ” Phelps said.
Obama congratulated Phelps on setting the all-time record for Olympic medals.
“He just got on and was saying how everyone was supporting me and behind me at home and how proud everybody is of me,” Phelps said. “That was pretty cool.
“He finished by saying, ‘Make sure you tell your mom I said hi.’ ”
On the opening night of the swimming competition, Lochte beat Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley. The rematch comes in the 200 IM, an event in which Lochte beat Phelps at last year’s world championships. However, Phelps beat Lochte at last month’s U.S. Olympic Trials.
If Phelps wins, he would become the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics.
Phelps could have one advantage. He will be resting while Lochte swims the final of the 200 backstroke, in which he is the defending gold medalist. The time between the start of the 200 back and the start of the 200 IM: 21 minutes.
“I know he has a tough double tonight,” Phelps said, “but I can guarantee that we’re going to race each other, and we’re going to race each other hard.”
The fastest qualifying time in the 200 back was recorded not by Lochte but by U.S. teammate Tyler Clary of Riverside, so Americans could see a Lochte vs. Clary duel just as intense as the Lochte vs. Phelps duel.
“I’m going to do my best to make sure that they do,” Clary said.