Michael Phelps, Rudy Garcia-Tolson chasing 200m IM world records in Rio


Michael Phelps broke the 200m individual medley world record for the first time in 2003. In total, he ended up breaking that world record four times in 2003 alone. He lowered it four more times between 2006 and 2008, until Ryan Lochte broke it at the World Championships 2009 and 2011, where it still stands today at one minute, 54.00 seconds.

Rudy Garcia-Tolson, similarly dominant, has been chasing the Paralympic SM7 class 200m IM world record since he broke it at the 2004 Paralympic Games. Garcia-Tolson won gold medals at both the 2004 Games in Athens (breaking the world record in the preliminary heats and during the final) and the 2008 Games in Beijing (lowering the world record again during both the prelims and the final). He broke the 200m IM world record most recently during the preliminary heats at the 2012 London Games and swam under world record pace in the final. He was touched out by Ukraine’s Yevheniy Bohodayko who broke the world record and won gold.

Phelps and Garcia-Tolson trained together in May at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where Garcia-Tolson is a resident and Phelps often visits to train at altitude.

“On one of his last practices, I asked [Phelps’] coach Bob Bowman and Michael if they would be alright if I could train with him,” Garcia-Tolson recounted during a phone interview with NBCOlympics. “This is his last go-around at the Olympics, and for me Michael is a huge inspiration and someone that I look up to. I said I’ve known Michael all this time and I’ve never been able to work out with him! They gave me the OK. I got to swim me and him, we split the lane. We were in the same lane and we did the same workout. It was cool. Pushing off the wall and having him right there, of course he’s much faster. That’s why I was kind of playing catch up, making sure that I wasn’t slacking off or anything. Being in the same pool as him is a huge honor. Being able to call him a friend of mine is an amazing thing. I’m excited to see what he does in Rio. It was an awesome experience.”

More notably, the pair agreed to both get their 200m IM world records back, Garcia-Tolson said.

“Before Michael left, we both made an agreement with each other,” Garcia-Tolson added. “He looked at me and said ‘let’s go get that world record back in Rio. Let’s go do this one last time.’ We shook hands and we made a deal that this is what the plan was. Obviously as an athlete in sports, it’s anyone’s day on the right day. We’re both putting ourselves in a position to do as well as we can.”

He looked at me and said 'let's go get that world record back in Rio. Let's go do this one last time.'

Rudy Garcia-Tolson

Phelps is famously hush-hush about his goals, telling a room full of reporters at the U.S. Olympic Training Camp media day “no one ever gets that answer.”

“I’ve never publicly stated my goals,” Phelps continued. “I love racing the best in the world, and I have that chance in three individual events. What more could I ask for?”