Squaring Up: Who Sees Red In Rivalry
May 20, 2012 - Craig Lord
Mind Games: Deckside antics, wars of words and posturing have never been past of the Michael Phelps show, in which the super-trouper moments have been trained on his abilities and achievements in the pool. London 2012 will not be like Athens 2004, nor Beijing 2008 - but some things never change: he will enter the races he feels he can win - and you won't find him shadow boxing with Ryan Lochte, James Magnussen or anyone else.
At the recent US Olympic media summit, Phelps said: "I've always been a person who lets all of my swimming do my talking. So I'm not going to go out and say something to a competitor. I've never done that, and I never will; it's not who I am. I've always just been able to jump in the water, and whoever is most prepared will win the race.
Maestro Bob Bowman added: "Honestly, I don't know that the rivalry does anything for Michael, because Michael' s main competition is himself. I think his primary measure of success is that he hits the time he wanted to hit. If he does that, he feels good about it. I think he likes to win pretty bad, but we both set our goals up high enough to where if he hits, he wins."
Neither Phelps nor Lochte would get sidelined by any cries of "in the blue corner … and in the red corner" designed to pump up the ratings. "Is that a huge motivating factor for either one of those guys? I don't think so," said Bowman. "I think they both have goals they want to achieve. I think they might have to help each other decide who' s going to get there and who' s not. But that's just a part of the process."
Phelps' presence, of course, is a huge motivating factor for any who wish to knock on the pantheon door themselves. Aussie sprint ace James Magnussen, 20, tells media Down Under today that he has a dream in which he takes on Phelps in the opening leg of the 4x100m free in a relay final the Green and Gold hopes will take them back to the "smashing guitars" of Sydney 2000.
"My ultimate race for me would be if Phelps led off the relay for America and I can lead off for Australia,'' Magnussen, 21, told the Aussie Sunday Telegraph. "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I want the chance to race him at the Olympics. I would revel in that chance. He's someone I have looked up to, but when I get on the blocks there is no loved lost for anyone that I race against.''
Including Cesar Cielo (BRA), defending 50m free champion who posted a 21.38 gauntlet this season to top Magnussen's 21.74 and emerged from Rio racing to say: "Magnussen can absorb the time that I achieved today any way he likes. The first step has been taken. I'm not swimming to beat him.''
Says The Missile in return: "He's been vocal in the last couple of months about wanting to beat me. That's something I revel in: trying to build a rivalry like that.''
Brazil: And talking of Cesar Cielo - if he does win anything in London 2012, the reward beyond gold will be R100,000, around US$50,000. For silver, Brazilians will get half that, for bronze about $9,000, the Confederação Brasileira de Desportos Aquáticos (CBDA) announced this weekend.
USA: Alabama, having recruited Britain head coach Dennis Pursley back to his alma mater with a post-London 2012 contract, has wooed another former pupil, former world 100m free record holder Jonty Skinner, a former USA Swimming sports scientist now with Britain but soon to move on, according to American sources.
Australia: retired Olympic butterfly champion Petria Thomas kicked off the Canberra 24-hour Mega Swim at the weekend with half an hour of effort over 1.9km in the pool. The aim was to raise $130,000 for sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS). Thomas, who retired after winning three gold medals at Athens 2004, doesn't get in the pool nearly as often these days. ''I went for a swim earlier this week just to make sure I could still swim for half an hour,'' she tells the Canberra Times. ''I admire some of these people who are going to be here in the middle of the night swimming up and down, but it's for a great cause and that's what matters."
London 2012: Many a blog and Olympic diary out there as London 2012 looms - and most have a touch of sport and a touch of whatever it is that an athlete finds as helpful distraction from thinking about the big moment too often. A few scribblings go further and offer heartening context and perspective. Ross Davenport, former Commonwealth champion for England and heading to a home Games for Britain on freestyle and as a team leader, tells readers of the Derby Evening Telegraph this weekend something of his experience on camp in Florida and how he is looking forward to the Mare Nostrum tour warm-up on the way to London 2012 before noting the things that he and his Loughborough teammates have been talking about: "We heard some terrible news while we were away. The Norwegian breaststroke world champion, Alexander Dale Oen, passed away after a training session. I didn't know him personally but we were based at the same place during a winter training camp and he came over to have a chat with us. He was a really nice guy and looked every inch the world champion …it's devastating news for the swimming world and, of course, for his friends and family. It was also sad to see Derby in the national news for all the wrong reasons after the tragic death of six children in a house fire. I always keep tabs on Derby news, so to read about that was really sad. As if that wasn't enough, a few days ago, seven year-old Lewis Mighty lost his battle with cancer. Lewis and his family were responsible for some hugely impressive fundraising campaign efforts and he will be massively missed. My thoughts are with these local families."