Will Michael Phelps be prevented from becoming the most decorated Olympian in any sport (if he wins three medals) by his talented teammate, Ryan Lochte?

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

By Mike Tierney, Special to Universal Sports

They play cards together and poke fun at each other. In the unique universe of Olympic sports, two athletes can be teammates and arch-rivals.

In the unlikelihood that Michael Phelps fails in London to eclipse the career medals standard for any sport by increasing his total by three to 19, the culprit could be fellow American Ryan Lochte. He is the world’s premier swimmer without the initials M.P and is the chief competition in three of Phelps’ four individual races. (It would have been four of five, but Phelps scratched off the 200-meter freestyle from his jam-packed agenda in London, leaving R.L. as favored in the event.)

Phelps’ went 3-1 in head-to-head matchups at the U.S. Trials, one year after Lochte got the better of the greatest swimmer ever, non-fish and non-mammal division, at the World Championships. They could join forces in multiple relays, meaning that Lochte could assist Phelps in his record medal quest in between trying to impede him.

Both are supremely confident, which suggests there will be no bluffing about one not being able to compete with the other — except at the card table.

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