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But despite Lochte’s recently found fame, with the potential for more after the 2012 Olympics, that’s far from his biggest motivator. Instead, it’s just a welcome byproduct of doing what he loves.

“Once I start thinking about the money, thinking about how many golds or medals, that’s when I feel like swimming will probably no longer be fun for me,” Lochte said. “I told myself I’ll quit swimming once I stop having fun, and right now I’m having a blast.”

Their worlds collide

Phelps is sure to experience obstacles as he attempts to make Olympic history in the final swim meet of his career. But expect the biggest of them to be his teammate.

Phelps and Lochte have been squaring off since the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and Phelps always had had the upper hand.

That has changed.

Phelps conceded that Lochte has “destroyed” him in major meets lately. Lochte is hoping to see similar results in London. Both have said they don’t pay attention to what the other is doing; that the only things they can control are their own races. Simply watch them swim against each other to see that’s far from the truth.

Ryan and Michael, when they’re next to each other, they are so focused on racing each other,” Bowman said following the 200-meter freestyle final at the Olympic Trials. “Tonight, Michael got ahead and he was like, ‘Well, I’m ahead of Ryan, I’m OK.’ And then Ryan is just waiting to make his move. And he makes his move, and they do the cat-and-mouse stuff, and in the process of that they forgot to swim fast.”

Lochte’s coach, Gregg Troy, channels the rivalry-induced pressure into a motivational tool.

“Two of the best ever go head-to-head, they’re both in their prime. One guy is going to win, and one is going to lose,” Troy said. “It makes you realize where you’re at. You can’t get comfortable and overconfident at this level.”

Phelps and Lochte are not the best of friends. Not by any means. But the respect they have for one another’s ability shines with every midrace glance across the pool.

Sometimes when they’re not swimming, Phelps and Lochte will pair up for a game of spades, often taking on Olympic teammates Cullen Jones and Ricky Berens in friendly competition.

But once they return to the pool deck, it’s back to business.

“When Ryan and I get in the pool, sure, I don’t want him to win, he doesn’t want me to win,” Phelps said. “But out of the pool … we can joke around and have fun and we can relax. It’s kind of like when we step on the pool deck, that’s our field — our battlefield.”

A bright future

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