Ryan Lochte could upstage Phelps & Thorpe in 2012 - Steve Parry

The only guys who seem to be saying the swimming at next year's Olympics will not be a two-man show are Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe.

Everyone seems to be talking about those two but they have both come out recently and said, 'Hold on a minute, the guy who's looking amazing is Ryan Lochte'.

So there is the potential for the media to be focusing on the wrong people.

Lochte was the first guy ever to break a world record unaided by a suit and took Phelps out in two of Phelps' main events at the World Championships earlier this year , the 200m freestyle and the 200m medley.

Lochte's Olympic record

Ryan Lochte
  • 2008 - gold x 2 (200m backstroke, 4x200m freestyle relay), bronze x 2 (200m IM, 400m IM)
  • 2004 - gold x 1 (4x200m freestyle relay), silver x 1 (200m IM)

The reason Phelps is still the main story is that, while Lochte has won Olympic gold medals before, he hasn't won 14 of them.

But the question I'm asking myself at the moment is: "Is Michael Phelps struggling for motivation?" Once you've done what he has done, perhaps it is harder to get out of bed every morning?

As for Thorpe, it is remarkable what he is doing. He has been trying to quell expectation but I don't think he's quelling it enough - I can't describe how big a struggle it is going to be for him.

He has been out of the water now for about five years and one thing swimmers carry on doing when they retire is eating lots - and Thorpe did pile on the pounds.

So to come back and have the required dedication, training four hours a day, that is some dedication.

The one thing we know about Thorpe is he is not going to do anything by halves. He is doing it the hard way, with Gennadi Touretski in Switzerland , on his own rather than with the team in Australia.

He has thought to himself, 'I need to make the transition from being a middle-distance swimmer to changing gear and becoming a 100-200m swimmer.'

Thorpe's secret Olympic training base

That is why he has linked up with one of the best sprint coaches in the world, the man who used to train Russian great Alexander Popov.

But he has had five years off and is trying to get back to peak physical fitness in 14 months. Remember, it's not just about swimming in the Olympics, he comes from one of the strongest swimming nations in the world, who have the 100m freestyle world champion James Magnussen , so he has got to be in peak condition come the trials in Australia early next year.

And I don't think Thorpe will be in Lochte's class in the 200m freestyle. That said, he has got his first comeback meet next month in Singapore, so we will have a better idea after that how far he has come and how far he has got to go.

But what people should also remember is it will not only be about Phelps, Thorpe and Lochte in London. I can't see anyone getting past Magnussen in the 100m free.

This guy spent three weeks in bed with pneumonia prior to the World Championships and he got off his sick bed and won the gold medal.

The 200m freestyle will be contested between Phelps, Thorpe and Lochte, with perhaps a couple of other guys thrown in as well. The 200m medley will be between Phelps and Thorpe but, in the other events, there will be more people coming into play.

Having said that, the only thing that will stop either one of them from winning five, six or seven gold medals is each other and I would still say that Phelps is the favourite for the largest medal haul.

He was pipped by Lochte in two events in Shanghai but the relays help his cause.

Phelps is a little bit more of a sprinter and Lochte usually can't get on the American 4x100m medley relay team. That's not to say Lochte won't win three or four medals himself.

However it pans out, there have been few names in swimming down the years that have transcended the sport. This rivalry is doing swimming wonders and will ensure the aquatics centre will get its fair share of attention in London next year.