First-time Olympian rips Michael Phelps’ work ethic

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Two weeks after getting smoked by Michael Phelps at the U.S. Olympic trials, swimmer Tyler Clary blasted the 14-time gold medalist and his training habits in a contentious interview with his local California newspaper.

Clary, who qualified for his first Olympic team after finishing 1.5 seconds behind Phelps in the 200 fly, says Phelps doesn't train hard in practice. He resents that Phelps has so much talent but doesn't have the work ethic to go along with it.

He told Jim Alexander of the Press-Enterprise:

"The fact that [Phelps] doesn't have to work as hard to get that done, it's a real shame. I think it's too bad. You see that all too often, where you get athletes that are incredibly talented that really take it for granted. I think the things he could have done if he'd worked as hard as I do would have been even more incredible than what he has pulled off."

[Related: Phelps packs on pounds after Beijing]

Phelps has won the most gold medals in Olympic history. He surpassed Mark Spitz for most golds at a single Games. This year, he's a lock to set the record for most medals ever won. He has 54 gold medals in international competition, will be competing in his fourth Olympics and has set world records for the better part of a decade. But, yeah, he's left a little bit on the table. What more can he do? Set world records in events he doesn't swim? Win medals at the Winter Olympics? Race on the moon?

You can see why Clary would harbor such bitterness and jealousy of Phelps. Clary's delusions of grandeur have turned into realities of bronze. His best international finishes -- 400 IM silver medals at the 2009 and 2011 world championships -- were made possible because Phelps chose not to swim the event. Phelps made his 400 IM return at trials and Clary was promptly booted to third place and off the Olympic team.

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"Basically, he was a swimmer that didn't want to be [at practice.] They can talk about all of these goals and plans and preparation they have. I saw it. I know. It's different. And I saw somebody that has basically been asking to get beat for the longest time."

Here's the thing: Clary isn't wrong. It's no secret that Phelps made a conscious decision to take it easy after the 2009 world championships. After nine straight years of international competitive swimming, he probably needed the break. It was a recharging of the batteries. But we're past that now. Phelps' performance at the U.S. Olympic trials -- where, once again he crushed Tyler Clary in two events -- was good enough to quell any concerns about the shape he's in before London. The plan worked. It may not be enough to win seven gold medals in London, but it's going to win him a handful of golds and get him to the podium every time he steps into the pool.

[Related: Gender bias in synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics]

These statements coming from any swimmer not named Ryan Lochte are like a chihuahua snipping at a rottweiler. Even from Lochte (who would never say such a thing, regardless of whether he believed it or not) it'd be over the top. Phelps' results speak for themselves. He hasn't fallen off -- not that we've seen. If Phelps was an example of wasted talent then he'd be ripe for criticism. As it stands now, he's the poster child for making the most of it. Whether or not he takes every set seriously or shows up early to morning dryland is irrelevant so long as he keeps winning.

"I've always called myself more of a blue-collar worker, as far as swimming goes. I work my (butt) off all the time. That's not to say that everybody else doesn't."

Well, that's exactly what you're saying.

"But the fact that I know I work harder than he does makes me appreciate every little goal and every little gain that I make."

To Tyler Clary, Michael Phelps is everything. To Michael Phelps, Tyler Clary is just another guy touching the wall after him.

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