If there were to be a Mount Rushmore dedicated to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it would have only two faces on it—Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. Phelps won a record eight gold medals in swimming, while Bolt was unstoppable in the track sprints, setting new world records in the 100m and 200m sprints and 4x100m relay. Defeating the two seemed impossible.
Four years on, things have changed a bit. Two rivals have emerged—Ryan Lochte for Phelps and Yohan Blake for Bolt. Both have beaten their more accomplished foes in important events more than once. The rise of Lochte and Blake is good news not just for sports fans but for Phelps and Bolt too. Though their legacy is secure after their feats in Beijing, the new challengers have given them the motivation to keep the grass or beer bongs away and whip themselves into shape for one last battle.
Here’s a ready reckoner on the two most exciting match-ups in the Olympics. Mark the dates on your calendar.
PHELPS VS LOCHTE
AGE: Phelps: 27 | DOB: 30 June 1985 || Lochte: Nearing 28 | DOB: 3 August 1984
HEIGHT: Phelps ~ 6'4" | Lochte ~ 6'2"
EVENTS (in which the two clash): 200m IM and 400m IM (IM: Individual Medley)
WHEN: 400 IM ~ 28 July | 200m IM ~ 2 August
HEAD TO HEAD: 5-5. Lochte leads the 200m IM head-to-head 2-1 and the 400m IM head-to-head 1-0. In key recent results, Lochte defeated Phelps in the 200m IM at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships and the 400m IM at the US Olympic trials this year. Phelps regained some ground defeating Lochte in the 200m IM at the Trials.
» PHELPS: 16 (14 gold, 2 bronze) ~ That’s more than what India has won in all Olympics combined. Phelps requires only three more medals of any colour to surpass Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s total of 18 and set an all-time record.
» LOCHTE: 6 (3 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) ~ He might be a better swimmer than Phelps at the moment, but there’s no way he can match the latter’s overall tally.
OLYMPICS PREPARATION: Lochte cut down on candy, fast food and lifted heavier weights. Phelps has been sleeping in a high altitude chamber for the past one year.
FUN FACTS: Amitabh Bachchan would easily fit Phelps’ wingspan (6’ 7”); Lochte was a promising soccer player as a kid. His mother Ileana says, “He could banana it right into the goal from a corner kick.”
IN A NUTSHELL: It’s expected to end at 1-1 between the two. Phelps might take the 200m IM, though Lochte holds the record (1:54.00 mins). Lochte is competing in the 200m backstroke final 30 minutes before that race while Phelps has nothing else that day. Lochte is favoured to win the 400m IM, though Phelps holds the current world record (4:03.84 mins) set in Beijing.
Bolt vs Blake
AGE: Bolt ~ Nearing 26 (DOB: 21 August 1986 | Blake ~ 22 (DOB: 26 December 1989)
HEIGHT: Bolt ~ 6'5" | Blake ~ 5'11"
EVENTS: Men’s 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay (the two will be relay teammates)
WHEN: 100m ~ 5 August | 200m ~ 9 August | 4X100m relay ~ 11 August
KEY RECENT RESULTS: Blake has dominated three recent encounters. At the 100m final of the 2011 World Championship, a false start disqualified Bolt. But he was outclassed in the 100m and 200m Jamaican Olympic trials this July.
OLYMPIC MEDALS: Bolt ~ 3 | Blake ~ 0
FUN FACTS: Bolt had chicken nuggets before his races in the Beijing Olympics. Blake’s first love is cricket. “As a boy I’d rather have played for the West Indies than go to the Olympics. That was my dream.”
» Blake: “You know why Usain calls me ‘The Beast’? Because when you’re sleeping, I’m working, I’m toiling through the night. It’s what great men do.”
» Bolt: “Last 10 metres, you’re not going to catch me. No matter who you are, how focused you are, how ready you think you are, you’re not going to catch me.”
IN A NUTSHELL: Blake is in Bolt’s head, no question. Blake can make even Bolt look leaden-footed despite being five inches shorter. Bolt’s appetite for partying has also blunted his edge. There are two things he can draw hope from. His top times are still faster than Blake’s. Bolt’s personal bests in the 100m and 200m are 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds, respectively. Both are world records. Blake’s 100m best is 9.75 seconds; for 200m, 19.26 seconds. Bolt is more experienced when it comes to big meets like the Olympics; Blake is making his Games debut in London.