IRVINE, Calif. — Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps performed like the rivals of old in their final race of the U.S. Championships on Sunday, putting four days of shaky swims behind them.
Lochte edged Phelps by .05 in the 200m individual medley for his first victory of the meet.
“It’s been hard throughout this whole year,” said Lochte, who re-tore an MCL in the spring after initially injuring the knee when an overzealous fan ran into him in November. “My confidence wasn’t really there because I always rely on my training. … This year, I haven’t done that training.”
Lochte, the 11-time Olympic medalist, won in 1:56.5, barely holding off the charging Phelps on the final 50 meters of freestyle.
Lochte’s title came less than a month after Phelps beat him in all three of their races together at a meet in Athens, Ga. That was Lochte’s first meet since April.
Lochte also ensured that Phelps showed up at Nationals and failed to win a single race for the first time since the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, when he was 15 and made the Sydney team by finishing second in the 200m butterfly.
“We both hate to lose to one another,” Phelps said, “but we enjoy racing against each other.”
Phelps, in his fifth meet since a 20-month competitive retirement, had two runner-ups, a sixth and a seventh in four events. He also clocked the fastest 100m butterfly in the world this year, but it was in the preliminary heats.
“I’m a lot happier with finishing [the meet] like that [the third-fastest 200m IM time in the world this year] than finishing with some of the sub-par performances that I’ve had throughout the finals sessions of this meet,” Phelps said.
Next up: the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-25. There, Lochte and Phelps will face swimmers from nations outside Europe in the biggest international meet of the year.
They are free to enter any individual events they like in Gold Coast.
“If I want to be where I want to be, I know what I have to do,” Phelps said. “Some of these races really upset me, frustrated myself and [coach] Bob [Bowman].”
In other events Sunday, Anthony Ervin won the 50m freestyle in 21.55, 14 years after he tied for Olympic gold in the event. Nathan Adrian was second in 21.69, followed by Cullen Jones, who snuck onto the Pan Pacs team.
Simone Manuel won the women’s 50m free in 24.56. Twelve-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin was sixth, failing to make the Pan Pacs team.
Michael McBroom took the 800m freestyle in 7:49.66, improving on his third-fastest time in the world this year. McBroom won 800m free silver at the 2013 World Championships.
Melanie Margalis won the women’s 200m individual medley in 2:10.20, the third-fastest time in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz was third to sneak onto the Pan Pacs team.
Katy Campbell knocked 27.11 seconds off her personal best to win the women’s 1500m free in 16:17.69.
Katie Ledecky‘s world record in the 1500m free from June 19 is 15:34.23. Ledecky, who broke the 400m world record Saturday, decided not to swim the 1500m free.