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Breakaway gold for American swimmer Lochte at Beijing Olympics
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18:44, August 15, 2008

American swimmer Ryan Lochte has for years been sandwiched between routine winners Michael Phelps and Aaron Peirsol, and he finally freed himself with an Olympic gold medal here on Friday.

The 24-year-old swimmer defeated world record holder Peirsol in the men's 200-meter backstroke here in Beijing, clocking one minute and 53.94 seconds to wipe 0.38 seconds off the previous world record which he shared with Peirsol.

"I can't even put it into words," said Lochte on winning his first individual Olympic gold, "I touched the wall and was like 'thank you, finally.'"

In the pool, Lochte has been a challenger, to Phelps in the individual medley and to Peirsol in the backstroke. He was part of the team that won the 4x200m freestyle gold in Athens, but seemed to have always as runner-up in individual events. At the U.S. Olympic trials in July, Lochte finished second three times, each time beaten by a world record set by Phelps and Peirsol.

"I've been racing Peirsol and Phelps for 5 or 6 years now, and I think I'm used to getting up and racing them," said Lochte.

In the 200 backstroke, before he edged Peirsol to the second in the 2007 World Championships, the latter has dominated the backstroke for five straight years. At the Olympic trials, Peirsol staged a comeback to equal the record, but it was Lochte who finally stood out in the Beijing rematch.

"In the 200 backstroke, I swam as fast as possible, but tried not to use my legs as much, basically I (began) racing in the last 50 meters," he said.

Lochte's swimsuit didn't fit well before he jumped into the water, but it didn't hamper him from flashing for the gold. "Before I jumped in, I didn't have the suit as tight as I wanted. But as soon as I dove in, I got bubbled up, and I didn't really focus on my suit," he said.

Compared with his rivals, Lochte seemed less aggressive and more laid-back. He has sustained careless injuries from falling off trees and landing into bushes on a scooter, but he managed to regroup himself before major swim meets.

Responding to how he prepared for the events, he cited sleeping tight and feeding on Big Macs.

"I slept really well and I went to bed like at nine last night," he said.

"Nutrition is probably the last thing I worry about. I eats whatever tastes good. I've been eating Mcdonald's pretty much every meal here. I think it helped though."

After winning the 200 backstroke, Lochte hurried off to another face-off with Phelps in the 200 individual medley race, in which he again was the underdog, but still believed himself in winning.

"I wanted to beat Michael Phelps. Every time I got into water and raced him, I always feel like I can win. That's the way I've been training my mind," he said.

Lochte finished third like he did in the 400 IM, in which Phelps claimed the title with a sixth world record at the Games.

"I wanted to (defeat Phelps), but it didn't happen. I just got up, go back, look at the video, see what I did wrong and hopefully get better," Lochte said.

The ability to put himself at ease, coupled with a strong belief in winning, has not only propelled Lochte to be the second fastest swimmer at 1:55.22 in the 200 IM, but also spurred the ace Phelps on.

"I wouldn't have bettered the mark if Ryan and others didn't push so hard," said Phelps.

When the two stepped onto the podium, Lochte was still panting, but he found time for small talk and joke-sharing with teammate Phelps.

Source: Xinhua

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