To claim his seventh and eighth gold medals, he came from behind against his rival Cavic in the 100 fly, winning on a final lunge by .01 second, and joined a U.S. team that coasted in the 4x100 medley.
“I was super-laid back,” Phelps said. “I was super-calm. . . . I was obviously ready for something that nobody had ever done before . . . and nobody was going to step in my way, nobody was going to get me off track. I was . . . focused on what I needed to do, and I was going to get the job done.”
‘Champions sort of know’
At last year’s world championships in Shanghai, Phelps lost in his only two head-to-head races to Lochte, who has outperformed Phelps internationally since the 2008 Summer Games.
Phelps has blamed all of his subpar performances since Beijing on his failure to commit to full-time training. Bowman has agreed, and frequently expressed frustration with Phelps’s lackadaisical approach. For all of his intensity at big events, Phelps has struggled to work up enthusiasm for lesser meets even when getting occasionally clobbered.
Though Bowman understands that Phelps, now 26, can not train as hard as he did as a teenager, Phelps’s ambivalence about workouts in recent years, and the resulting defeats, have occasionally infuriated him.
“There would be 10 things to correct, and it wouldn’t be, ‘I’m quitting, I [stink],’’ Bowman said of Phelps’s demeanor. “He was never like that. I was always like, ‘You should quit.’ He always had a perspective on it.”
Lochte’s emergence and victories have set up an intriguing Michael vs. Ryan story line this summer. In recent interviews, Phelps says he respects Lochte greatly, but has responded to questions about him mostly with nonchalance.
“I’m pretty much now playing catch-up over the last three years, because I was the one who didn’t want to get in the water and didn’t want to train,” Phelps said.
“Champions sort of always know how to get back to where they once were.”