I have been photographing Michael Phelps for over 8 years, which has included 3 Olympic Games and 3 World Swimming Championships and I have never seen him like this – a goldless man.
I even saw him in a race that for the first time did not result in a podium finish. And then the U.S. team only finished second in the 4X100M freestyle relay race, which included Phelps and his now great rival team mate, Ryan Lochte. I never thought this would be possible.
But the perceived rivalry between Phelps and Lochte is a very interesting story here at the London Olympic Games. Whenever I photographed the two of them together in the past, they would always be laughing, joking, and never, ever ignoring one another. Since the first training session here in London last Monday afternoon, I’ve noticed the lack of talk, smiles, laughter, and even recognition
Lochte is no longer finishing second to ‘The King’, so I am left wondering if these results have affected their friendship. The simple fact is, I will never know, but I am hoping they can recover from their competitive thoughts and acknowledge each others amazing abilities. I recently saw the movie ‘Senna’ about the rivalry between the Formula One drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, and how they went from friends, to enemies, and back to being very close friends. I am hoping perhaps these two great rivals will have a similar story.
Phelps was the highlight for me at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won 8 gold medals to become the most successful Olympian in history.
His performance was incredible, and the pictures I took of him are my most memorable from covering a summer Olympic Games. So, to see him performing as he has at the London games has been a bit sad and to me an example of how age catches up with everyone. None of us can be as fast as we once were, even the great Phelps. Even still, I believe he will win a gold medal, in his favorite event, the 200 meter butterfly.
We will have to wait and see, on Thursday night.
By David Gray / REUTERS