By Jeff Labrecque
August 02, 2012 at 04:53 PM EDT
dam Pretty/Getty Images

I’m staring at a blank window on NBC’s Olympic website that is counting down the seconds to this afternoon’s Duel in the Pool II: 1:40:10… 1:40:09… 1:40:08. Today, at 3:19 p.m. ET, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will dive in to the pool for the 200 IM final, mano e mano for the last time. Their rivalry has become one of the Games’ biggest subplots, with Lochte humbling the once invincible golden boy in Saturday’s 400m IM final. (Lochte struck gold, while Phelps finished a distant fourth.) Lochte is the world-record holder at this shorter distance, but Phelps, the two-time defending Olympic champion in this event, edged him at the Olympic trials. In yesterday’s qualifier, Lochte defeated Phelps by almost a second… but was Phelps holding something back for today?

Both men have proved themselves mortal thus far in the Olympics, with Lochte coming up short in the anchor leg of the 4x100m freestyle final and Phelps being out-touched at the finish of the 200m butterfly. But a victory today could erase those disappointments and provide the clinching victory in their long-running battle against each other — as well as the iconic winning moment of the Games. So there’s absolutely no chance I’m waiting until NBC’s tape-delayed primetime soap opera tonight. I’ll be watching live on my computer, just as the ancient Greeks did.

Two quick questions for you, swim fans (no, not those swimfans): Will you be watching it live? And who do you think will win? Vote below:

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