It was an epic battle between the two best swimmers in Olympic history.
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte faced off against each other in the 200-meter individual medley semifinals on Wednesday night – and the pumped-up crowd couldn’t get enough of the action. (Some of the excitement was for Brazil’s own Thiago Pereira, who was also competing.)
As it turned out, Phelps narrowly took first place with a 1:55.78. Lochte was close behind with a 1:56.26. Pereira finished third with a 1:57.11.
Phelps, 31, is the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He has 25 medals to his credit – 21 gold, two silver and two bronze.
But Lochte, 32, is no slouch in the medals department. He has 12 of them – 6 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze. (He’s the second-most decorated swimmer in Olympic history, and the 13th-most decorated Olympian overall.)
Lochte and Phelps seemed relaxed before the race began. (There was no Phelps Face – just some intense stretching.) After the race was over, Lochte and Phelps gave each other a quick handshake.
In a joint interview with NBC after the face-off, the two competitors talked about how they inspire each other.
“I love racing him,” said Phelps. “I think for me, he brings the best out of me. We’re racers, it’s meets like these that I love the most where he and I get to go and kind of duke it out.”
Added Lochte: “We bring the best out of each other. We’re been doing it since 2004. Anytime I get up and race him, it’s the best.”
There were no medals on the line in this heat; the two will square off again during the final race on Thursday night.