With Michael Phelps' poor showing on Saturday in the individual medley, and with the U.S. blowing a lead to France courtesy of Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter relay on Sunday, both Phleps and Lochte showed that they certainly have vulnerabilities. Both are obviously elite swimmers and are likely the two best in the world, but the question, of course, is who's better?
The answer at the moment: Michael Phelps.
With Phelps' poor performance on Saturday in the 400-meter individual medley, it appeared that Lochte was in position to take over as America's premier swimmer. It also looked like Phelps was officially on the downslide and his spot at the top of the swimming world would soon be gone.
However, not so fast.
Over their past six races, including Sunday's relay, Phelps has bested Lochte in four of them. According to NBC Olympics.com, at the 2012 Olympic Trials, Phelps won three of the four races in which they matched up head-to-head. Phelps performed poorly on Saturday, but he was able to out-swim Lochte in Sunday's relay.
Phelps posted the fastest time of any of the American swimmers, swimming the 100-meter distance in only 47.15 seconds, while Lochte basically blew it for the Americans. So, who's got the better track record in their head-to-head matchups this year?
Easy, it's Phelps.
Just because Phelps had one bad race doesn't mean he's finished, and it certainly doesn't mean that Ryan Lochte is a better swimmer than he is. Yes, on Saturday Phelps had a really bad showing, and shockingly didn't even medal. But he rebounded and as previously stated swam extremely well on Sunday, casting aside any sentiment that he can no longer compete at the highest level.
Could the same thing have happened on Sunday to Lochte that happened to Phelps on Saturday? Absolutely, there's no denying that. But it seems like the gap between the two is so small that a tiny swing in the pendulum is what makes the difference right now in determining who's better between them.
So, as of the morning on July 30, 2012, Phelps currently has the edge on Lochte. Could that change in the next few days? Definitely, there's no doubt about it.
But right now, the best swimmer in the red, white, and blue is Michael Phelps.
Given how close these two appear to be in terms of overall talent, you have to look at Phelps' history and experience. The guy has seventeen Olympic medals. Personally I'm not his biggest fan, but it has to be said that there's a strong argument that he's the greatest Olympian of all time.
All things being equal, in any sport, I'm going to choose the athlete with the better track record when there's little else to choose from.
Lochte's certainly no slouch, but Phelps is in a whole different ballpark when it comes to Olympic production. Similar to how the "tie goes to the runner" in baseball, the tie here goes to the guy with more Olympic gold medals than there were American Colonies.
Phelps' history speaks for itself. And until he proves more than one isolated time that he no longer has "it", he's still the greatest swimmer on earth.
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