IRVINE, Calif. ——Michael Phelps departed the mixed zone, leaving behind four words.
"Losses always motivate me," he said.
Words rarely uttered by Phelps. Especially in the 200-meter individual medley against his longtime rival Ryan Lochte. Or any other swimmer for that matter.
Lochte not only upset Phelps in the 200 IM but did so in a decisive manner, winning in 1 minute, 54.84 seconds at the U.S. national championships Friday night. Phelps was second in 1:55.94 and Tyler Clary third in 1:59.19.
"That hurt," Phelps said. "I was saying to Ryan when we were sitting in the pool, I was like, 'Dude, I think [with] about 20 meters left, I just saw you pass me like I was standing still.' I kind of ran into a brick wall."
Phelps had been aiming for the 1:55 range but didn't quite expect his body to shut down the way it did. Lochte took the lead on the breaststroke leg and held Phelps off on the final freestyle leg in stunning fashion.
"Just physically, I felt like my body shut down," Phelps said. "I felt like I couldn't turn over my arms. When I came off the wall, I tried to do an underwater kick and it really didn't work so well. I was just hoping the wall was going to come as fast as it could."
Lochte's impressive double — he placed second in the star-studded 100 freestyle field about 35 minutes before the grueling IM — was even more surprising considering he had come into the meet with questions about his fitness.
Lochte thought about scratching from IM events because he had been unable to practice his breaststroke because of an injured groin.
"I've been babying it for almost a month now," Lochte said. "I think it's rested."
"He always says that, man," Phelps said. "He always says something wrong or he's not going to swim well. He always gets up and does something. Ryan is always someone who is going to overcome something."