Phelps, Olympic team train in Knoxville
By Ryan Howard | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — The United States Olympic swim team opened its Thursday practice to fans as the team continues a week of training at the University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Aquatic Center in preparation for the London Summer Olympics.
“Amazing facility,” Michael Phelps said. “The water was a little cold, but you’ve got to work up to it a little bit. The support has been great; we haven’t had a crowd like this, on a day like this, for the past three Olympics for me.”
All 48 swimmers — 24 men and 24 women — came to Knoxville Sunday and will stay until Saturday before going to an undisclosed location in France for a week of training and acclimation to the time difference. After training in France, the team will travel to London and continue to practice till the torch lighting ceremony July 27.
Thursday gave the first 1,200 fans to enter the indoor facility a first-hand look at Olympic stars such as Phelps and Ryan Lochte, whose rivalry will be one of the most compelling story lines in London.
“That’s what makes sports, great rivalries,” Lochte told reporters Thursday. “What me and Michael have created the past eight years has been tremendous. It’s just making the sport bigger, and that’s what we really want to do.”
Lochte might have been in Phelps’ shadow — which included a record eight gold medals in 2008 — the past two Olympics in terms of public recognition, but Lochte has won six medals — three of those being gold — and holds four world records in his own right.
Rivalries don’t usually form between teammates, but swimming is a unique sport that features individual and team competitions. Phelps beat Lochte in three of four head-to-head event at the U.S. Olympic trials this summer but lost to him twice at the 2011 world championships.
“Going into this Olympics, I think this is going to be the biggest rivalry since (Michael) Jordan and Magic (Johnson),” Lochte said. “It’s huge. I’m just happy to be on the same team as him. We have a great rivalry and a great friendship.
“Everyone here has been amazing. The facility is unbelievable, and camp is great. Everyday you see something amazing from a different swimmer.”
Lochte said he will have to wait until after August to say whether or not he is Jordan or Magic in the rivalry, but with no plans to retire, Lochte might have a chance to surpass even Phelps’ accomplishments.
Phelps currently holds 16 total medals, but the 27-year-old has stated that he plans to retire after the upcoming games are completed. Lochte, who is also 27, could leave London with potentially 11 for his Olympic career.
“When I was about three years old, I just fell in love with the water,” Lochte said. “I’ll quit swimming once I stop having fun, and I’m having a blast right now. I don’t plan on stopping swimming for awhile.”
Olympic teammate Tyler Clary called out Phelps in the media Monday for his work ethic and said Phelps has been coasting off his talent and not his hard work.
“I think people say what they want to say and do what they want to do,” Phelps said Thursday in response to Clary’s comments. “I think that’s how our society is. For me right now, the only thing I’m worrying about is myself and preparing myself to represent my country.”
Phelps is slated to race in five events in London, which is a significant drop off from the eight events he competed in at the Beijing games in 2008. Lochte is also scheduled to compete in five events.