With disappointment visible on his face, Ryan Lochte said he will be taking a break after finishing 5th in the 200-meter individual medley that also marked the end of his 12-year rivalry with friend Michael Phelps.
Speaking to NBC Sports after his race on Thursday night, the 32-year-old swimmer said he is going have to find different ways to make swimming fun again and would be taking some time off from the sport to figure it all out.
“It’s been a long journey,” Lochte said. “I wish I’d done better. I felt great before the race… I am kind of bummed but I gave it my all.”
“Who knows, I might be back,” he added.
Going into Thursday night’s race, experts had Phelps and Lochte finishing in first and second much like they had done in past Olympics.
From the start, it seemed like it would be a similar playbook with both swimmers neck-to-neck for the first 100 meters. However, when they got into the breaststroke, Phelps began to pull away from the pack and Lochte fell back more than a second.
When they hit the freestyle for the last 50 meters, it was all over. Phelps extended his lead to finish a full body-length ahead of the field to win his fourth gold medal of the Rio Olympics and 22nd overall.
"I would have liked to have the world record. Winning four in a row, I had a really hard time holding it together. It's very special — to win 22 Olympic gold medals," Phelps told NBC Sports after finishing the 100-meter butterfly semifinals. "I am just living a dream come true."
Kosuke Hagino of Japan took the silver and Wang Shun of China earned the bronze.
The 200IM was the only individual race that Lochte qualified for in the Rio Olympics. His only other race was the men’s 2x400 freestyle relay for which he took home the gold on Tuesday night alongside Phelps, Conor Dwyer and Townley Hass.
A groin injury at the U.S. Olympic trials last month prevented him from qualifying in other individual races.
Ahead of Thursday’s race, Lochte and Phelps praised each other for making them better competitors every time they are in the pool together.
"It's going to take a perfect performance in order to beat him just because of how tough a competitor he is," Lochte said. "He won't give up and that's awesome. That's why he brings out the best in me and hopefully I do the exact same for him.”