Lochte hopes for Phelps' return

Ryan Lochte wishes old sparring partner Michael Phelps would make a comeback but says he must put his former US team-mate and good friend out of his mind if he is to increase his tally of world championship medals.

Phelps, who ended his glittering career after last year's London Olympics, amassed 26 world titles, while Lochte owns 12 ahead of the latest championships in Barcelona starting on Sunday.

It will be the first Phelps-free major competition in more than a decade and Lochte told a news conference the 28-year-old Baltimore native, who will be in the Catalan capital as a spectator, would be sorely missed in the pool.

Lochte took a lengthy break after the 2012 Olympics, including appearing in his own reality TV show, but is still confident of at least a medal in the seven events, four individual and three relay, he is contesting.

"There's no doubt he (Phelps) is going to go down in history as the best swimmer ever and I was just happy I was a part of that," Lochte, who is also 28, told reporters at the US team's pre-competition briefing.

"He's the hardest racer I have ever had to go up against and I had fun and we grew into a really good friendship because of that," he added.

"We both pushed each other and now that he is gone I am definitely going to miss him.

"But I can't really focus just on him. There are other competitors out there who are finding different ways every year to get a lot faster.

"I just have to worry about myself, step on those blocks and race."

Some media reports have suggested Phelps may be preparing a comeback, something Lochte said he would welcome. Phelps’ former coach Bob Bowman, who is the head men's coach for the US team, said he was unaware of any such plans.

"My answer to that is always when I see it I'll believe it," he told reporters. "I have had no indications at this point in terms of him coming in swimming or showing an interest to get in any kind of programme so I think that's where we'll leave that one."

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