Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will race against each other one last time Thursday, bringing to culmination a legendary rivalry that may end with Phelps breaking yet another Olympic record.
With three days left in his career, Phelps will face Lochte in the 200m individual medley at 3:19 p.m. ET Thursday. If Phelps wins, he would become the first swimmer to win the same individual event in three consecutive Olympics. The race will be streamed live and replayed as part of NBC's Thursday primetime broadcast, which begins at 8 p.m. ET.
There could be no better match-up: Lochte holds the world record in the event, but Phelps beat him at the Olympic trials. On Wednesday, Lochte beat Phelps by a body length in the 200m IM semifinal. The two finished 1-2, with Phelps no doubt saving energy in the final sprint.
That tuneup was but one of many riveting finishes for Americans at the Aquatic Centre on Wednesday.
Nathan Adrian stunned a star-studded field in the men’s 100m freestyle, winning the gold with a time of 47:52, a hundredth of a second over Australian James Magnussen.
Rebecca Soni, the defending gold medalist in the women’s 200m breaststroke, broke the world record in the event's semifinals. Soni and teammate Micah Lawrence advanced to Thursday’s final.
Finally, the American relay team of Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Shannon Vreeland and Allison Schmitt set an Olympic record in the 4x200m freestyle, finishing in 7:42.92, featuring a crushing anchor leg by Schmitt. Australia came in second and France third.
Team USA also notched another win in the preliminaries of women's beach volleyball. Defending Olympic gold medal champs Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor won their match against Austria — albeit not without losing one set within it, breaking a winning streak that spanned three Olympics.
They lost the first set 21-17 on Wednesday night, then won the second 21-8 and the third 15-10, leaving them unbeaten every time they've played at the Olympics.
And on the basketball court, the U.S. women beat an undefeated Turkish team 89-58 Wednesday night, buoyed by Angel McCoughtry's 18 points and Tina Charles' 16.
Phelps, meanwhile, is focusing not so much on Lochte, but on his place in history. He became the most decorated Olympian ever on Tuesday when he won his 19th career medal. If he doesn’t win gold over Lochte on Thursday, he will have one more chance to set the record for consecutive gold medal wins in a single event in the 100m butterfly. Phelps came in second in his heat Thursday morning, outtouched by South African Chad Le Clos. The final is scheduled for Friday.
Phelps will likely finish his Olympics – and his career – on Saturday, with the men’s 4x100m medley relay.
Lochte is racking up his own cache of Olympic medals. In addition to the 200m IM against Phelps on Thursday, he is also a favorite, along with teammate Tyler Clary, in the men’s 200m backstroke. If he wins medals in both events, he will have 11 for his career.
Other teammates set to become rivals Thursday include gymnasts Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, who will compete in the women's individual all-around event. The two were members of the squad that scored gold Tuesday in the gymnastics team all-around final. It's a dream come true for Raisman, whose spot in the final was originally projected to belong to teammate Jordyn Weiber, who eventually failed to qualify in a shocking upset.
Team captain Raisman, 18, has emerged as the standout U.S. women's gymnastic star in London after toiling quietly while Wieber received much of the media attention in the run-up to the games. Her score of 60.391 during qualifications was second only to Russia's Victoria Komova (a favorite to take the gold medal), who scored 60.632.
"Aly's success [in the qualifying round] just proves that hard work pays off," U.S. head coach Martha Karolyi told the Associated Press. "She's one of the most serious and hardest-working girls in training."
The women's gymnastic finals, featuring vault, uneven bars, beam and floor exercises, will be streamed live beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET.
The U.S. women's eight won the team's second straight rowing gold Thursday morning with a 6-minute, 10:59-second finish, beating out Canada, which won silver and the Netherlands, which won bronze. The Americans successfully defended the title they won in the Beijing Games in 2008. The U.S.'s only previous Olympic gold in the discipline came at Los Angeles in 1984. New Zealand won gold in the men's double skulls Thursday morning and South Africa won the gold in the lightweight fours.
Other notable events Thursday include:
- The U.S. men's basketball team takes on Nigeria in a Group A qualifying match, which begins at 5:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
- Men’s and women’s team sprint track cycling finals from the Velodrome will be streamed live starting at 12:59 p.m. ET.
- Live coverage of the U.S. men's waterpolo squad as they attempt to continue their winning streak in a match against host-team Great Britain begins at 1:20 p.m. ET on NBC. Team USA earned a surprise silver in Beijing and are led by captain Tony Azevedo. The team sacrificed hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively by not playing professionally overseas this year to train together for the Olympics.
For a full local listing of events being shown all day on NBC, the NBC Sports Network, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, the NBC Basketball Channel and Telemundo, please see NBCOlympics.com, where you can also find listings for all livestreamed events.