LONDON — On the night that closed the book on their rivalry, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte slipped into old roles and seemed to switch personalities as if under some sorcerer’s spell. Lochte, who had taken to describing himself as “happy-go-Lochte” and whose response to any question in the lead-up to the Olympics about mushrooming expectations was, “It’s just swimming,” was the pinched-faced man of few words.
Phelps, known for being incandescent in the water and indifferent out of it, was smiling and making jokes, drawing outsiders into an inner circle that he had spent the past decade keeping under lock and key.
Lochte, who came into these Games with the goal of winning medals in all seven of his events, faded on the final laps of his last four races while trying to simulate the program that carried Phelps’s 16-medal performance at the 2004 and 2008 Games. Lochte concluded his program on Thursday night with his best two events, the 200-meter backstroke and the 200 individual medley, and looked tapped out while losing both.
In the 200-meter backstroke, Lochte, the defending champion, was beaten to the wall by his American teammate Tyler Clary, who was timed in 1:53.41. (Lochte equaled his gold-medal-winning time of four years ago with a 1:53.94.)
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