Swimming legend Spitz favors Phelps over Lochte

Swimming legend Spitz favors Phelps over Lochte

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Swimming legend Spitz favors Phelps over Lochte

US swimming great Mark Spitz is in Istanbul for the Intercontinental Bosphorus Race. Spitz will perform an exhibition swim in the Bosphorus on July 14, one day before the race. During his press conference members of Galatasaray masters swimming team presented a towel with Spitz’s name on it and thanked him ‘for being an inspiration.’

Swimming legend Mark Spitz feels Michael Phelps will have an edge over Ryan Lochte in the highly awaited medals quest at the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The two American swimmers will come head-to-head in their race for gold medals, which will be among the most anticipated events at the Olympics.

Spitz, whose 36-year record of winning seven gold medals at a single Olympic Games was shattered by Phelps in 2008, says that experience will count.

“I think it’s an interesting rivalry, it’s great for television,” Spitz said, speaking to Hürriyet Daily News. “But if I had to put my money on it, I’m gonna pick Phelps.”

Spitz says the rivalry will help both athletes raise their game and some records may be set in London.
“When you have competition it puts more pressure on the athlete and therefore the performance level goes up,” Spitz said. “If they didn’t have that kind of competition, it would be basically an exhibition.”
Phelps’ eight gold medals in Beijing put him alongside the greatest names in sports, but Lochte is a rising star and is likely to add to his six medals. The race to win more medals will be also crucial for Phelps, as the swimming superstar has called the London Games as his swansong. However, Spitz says there is a good chance that Phelps may make a return in the future.

“For me, it was different. I had to retire to make money. Now that the rules have changed, athletes can make big money and still compete in the Olympic Games,” Spitz said. “[Phelps] is 27 and I think he has such a high level of expectations every time he gets in the water that he’s supposed to win all those medals. Could he compete four years from now, at the age of 31? Sure. Does he want to? He’s told everybody ‘No.’ Could he change his mind? Probably.”

Spitz believes that having the “spirit of a champion” will not allow Phelps to quit easily.

“I wouldn’t say that he is out totally. I would say he will probably disappear for a year or two; he decides he wants to compete in one or two events and take a little bit lesser program,” Spitz said. “Once you are a champion, you always have that spirit that wants to win. That will never leave him. Even after 40 years, I still like to get in the water and swim and challenge myself and swim at a level to be competitive with [Phelps]. I know that’s impossible, but do I dream of this? Yeah, of course. And that you can never take away from a person. I respect that he’s going to retire, but I wouldn’t put all my money on it.”

Spitz was in Istanbul for the Intercontinental Bosphorus Race. The legendary athlete will perform an exhibition swim in the Bosphorus on July 14, one day before 1,200 swimmers race “from Asia to Europe.”

“I hope it’s not too cold,” Spitz laughs. “I am going to have a good time. I’m not going to stay there for very long – maybe 15 minutes.”

The 24th edition of the Bosphorus Race starts at 10 a.m. on July 15.