2012 Olympic Games: Two Underdogs in Position to Become Cultural Icons

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2012 Olympic Games: Two Underdogs in Position to Become Cultural Icons
Al Bello/Getty Images

Global stardom will be on the line when Michael Phelps dips into the pool to face Ryan Lochte and Usain Bolt lines up on the track against Yohan Blake.

Phelps and Bolt enter the London Olympics having each experienced a monumental rise to international fame following their triumphs in Beijing four years ago. But Blake and Lochte are challengers with realistic chances to upset the titans of their respective sports to become cultural icons of their own. 

 

Yohan Blake

Blake, only 22 years old, has the opportunity to become a household name around the world. How many athletes get a chance to say that? 

He runs in the Olympics' most captivating and popular events, the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. He famously beat international superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, who dominated the 2008 Games in Beijing, in both those events during this year's Jamaican Olympic trials. 

If the phenom can rekindle the same magic on the planet's most grand stage, he'll instantly morph into a star and a marketers dream. 

Winning the 100-meter and 200-meter gold at a Summer Olympics is one thing, doing so against a fellow countryman and world-record holder is another. 

Bolt isn't the only legitimate competition Blake will have to contend with in London. Established Jamaican runner Asafa Powell held the world record in the 100-meter dash from 2005 to 2008. American Tyson Gay failed to qualify for the 100-meter final in Beijing, but he does have a 9.69 (wind-aided) time on his resume and is giving the Olympics what will likely be a final try. 

Blake has the natural talent to overcome all these sprinters, and if he does en route to winning gold in the famed events, he'll be even more well-known than Bolt and will have an extremely bright future ahead of him, one that'll include many TV appearances and a load of major endorsement deals. 

 

Ryan Lochte

Lochte is a 27-year-old swimmer and former 2008 Olympian. 

He won the bronze medal in the 400-meter individual medley and was a member of the gold-medal winning 4x200-meter relay team that included Phelps. His crowning moment of the 2008 Games was winning an individual gold in the 200-meter backstroke. 

Lochte was clearly not on the same level as Phelps four years ago, but he's certainly closed the gap since Beijing. He beat Phelps in the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter individual medley at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships. 

If that appeared to be a fluke to some, Lochte finished first in the 200-meter backstroke and 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic trials. 

At the trials, in regards to Phelps, Lochte had this to say, via USA Today: "He's human. He's not a fish or anything like that." 

Lochte's been diligently training to not only win gold, but outperform his teammate, who happens to be the most accomplished and recognizable swimmer today. 

The Phelps vs. Lochte battle will be one of the most discussed and watched portion of the Olympics, so Lochte has a fantastic opportunity to make himself a household name this summer. 

 

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