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London 2012: Ryan Lochte's Top Rival for Olympic Gold in Each of His Events

Jake AdamsContributor IIJuly 2, 2012

London 2012: Ryan Lochte's Top Rival for Olympic Gold in Each of His Events

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    Now that the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are over, we now know who will be representing the red, white and blue in the pool in London later this month.

    More importantly, we know which races to watch when Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps dive in, and who expects to challenge (more likely finish behind) them.

    As expected, Team USA's top two swimmers are set to face off in multiple events—namely the 200-meter individual medley and the 400 IM.

    So outside of Phelps, who is most likely to give Lochte a run for gold in each of his four races (he's also in the 200 backstroke and 200 freestyle)?

    Here's a look at Lochte's top competition. And yes, that means more on that Phelps-Lochte rivalry that just won't go away.

200 Meter Freestyle

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    USA: Ricky Berens

    Other: Paul Biedermann (Germany)

    Dark Horse: Yannick Agnel (France)

    Ever heard of Ricky Berens?

    Neither have I. This is possibly the only race for Lochte where his major competition doesn't reside in the states, after Phelps somewhat surprisingly (but understandably) dropped this event on the last day of the Olympic Trials despite qualifying once again.

    The trio of Lochte, Phelps and Biedermann swept the medal stand at the World Championships last year, separated by less than 44-hundredths of a second.

    Realistically, Biedermann and Lochte will likely swim neck-and-neck throughout the race, with everyone else vying for bronze. 

    Keep an eye out for Agnel. The 20-year-old specializes in the free and could sneak a medal. He'll be someone to watch for the next few years.

    Expected Finish: Gold

200 Meter Backstroke

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    USA: Tyler Clary

    Other: Ryosuke Irie (Japan)

    Dark Horse: Radoslaw Kawecki (Poland)

    This is the other race Lochte won't have to worry about Phelps.

    Instead, he has to worry about Clary.

    If Clary didn't come into the sport along at the same time with the "Big Two," he would have qualified for far more races, including the 400 individual medley. He could have easily been America's best swimmer in a non-Phelps/Lochte era.

    I think that will be a little added motivation for him to bring home gold.

    Watch out for Irie, though, who came in second at the World Championships last year.

    Expected Finish: Gold

200 Meter Individual Medley

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    USA: Michael Phelps

    Other: Laszlo Cseh (Hungary)

    Dark Horse: Thaigo Pereira (Brazil)

    Phelps and Lochte so clearly dominated in Shanghai last year (Cseh finished in third by more than three seconds) that it's hard to see anyone stealing an upset.

    Again, as in the 200 meter free, Lochte has the psychological advantage from the World Championships. But Phelps again won this event in the trials, this time by .09 seconds.

    Lochte owns the world record with his 1:54 time at Worlds last year. I think that's the key. But I believe he'll have to swim even better to win because Phelps is known for breaking a few records himself.

    Watch Cseh and Pereira fighting for bronze as well. That could be another close finish.

    I can realistically see this being the one upset Lochte gets.

    Expected Finish: Gold

400 Meter Individual Medley

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    USA: Michael Phelps

    Other: Yuya Horihata (Japan)

    Dark Horse: Kosuke Hagino (Japan)

    Yet another Lochte-Phelps matchup (yawn).

    Lochte beat his arch rival by almost a full second at the Trials, but the winning time of 4:07:06 is over three seconds off the world record. One guess as to who has that record.

    Phelps hasn't competed in the 400 individual medley in a major competition since the Beijing Games, so he's still working back to form. Lochte knows his Trials time won't be close to enough.

    Horihata is really an afterthought in this race, having finished four seconds behind Lochte in the World Championships last year with a time of 4:11:98.

    I also feel for Clary, who got caught in another battle between Lochte and Phelps in the U.S. Trials and was the odd man out.

    Expected Finish: Silver

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