Olympic Swimming 2012: What US Team Must Prove Moving Forward
After a crushing defeat to France in the 4x100 freestyle relay, the U.S. team needs to bounce back as the Games continue.
The American team saw their chance to defend their gold falter as Ryan Lochte fell to France’s Yannick Agnel in the final lap.
The U.S. team has every right to be upset about a silver finish, as they were the toast of the town at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The U.S. won 31 total medals, including 12 gold last time around, and they are looking to maintain that figure in these Games.
However, it has not been that easy for the American team so far.
After day one, Lochte had all but secured himself as the poster boy for American swimming, as his teammate Michael Phelps fell out of contention in the 400-meter individual medley.
Nonetheless, it was Lochte, and not Phelps, who could not hold off France on the anchor leg of the freestyle relay.
Moving forward, the U.S. team must prove they are still the best team in the pool.
Dominating Individual Events
Between Phelps and Lochte, the U.S. team will have a good chance to grab medals in a number of events.
However, gold makes everything that much sweeter.
Rather than second or third place finishes, the American swimmers should be focused on grabbing the top spot.
Outside of the two superstars, Matt Grevers will have a solid chance to grab gold tonight in the 100-meter backstroke. Grevers will be the top seed heading into the final, as he finished with the fastest time during qualifying.
Grevers finished with a silver medal in Beijing, and this time around he should be looking to capture gold.
Lochte will also swim tonight, and although he may not be the favorite headed into the final, he certainly is in contention.
He finished less than a second behind the top qualifier in the 200-meter freestyle, and Lochte will need to turn in a legendary performance to grab gold in this event.
After his blunder during the relay, Lochte should be amped at the opportunity to grab his second gold medal of the Games.
As for the remainder of the individual competitions, Phelps will obviously have a good chance to medal in the butterfly events. The qualifying rounds have not been completed, but he finished with a respectable time of 1:55.53 during the heats.
The U.S. will need to snatch gold in individual events to reclaim their dominance.
Lochte and Phelps
The U.S. team features two of the top swimmers on the planet, and those two must prove they are worthy of that title.
Lochte has proven his worth by capturing a gold and silver medal so far, but that total can still grow exponentially. As for Phelps, he needs to build off what he has accomplished if he wants to contend for gold.
Obviously, it won’t go as smoothly as it did in 2008 for Phelps, when he grabbed eight gold medals.
However, these two still have a lot of swimming to do at the Games, and with strong performances from each of them, the American team can show they are far from seceding their stranglehold on the top spot.
The two superstars of U.S. swimming must push one another to be better. Lochte has already bested Phelps in the individual medley, now its Phelps’ turn to get his revenge.
Both of them will compete in the 200-meter individual medley, and a first and second place finish would be great for the U.S. team.
Now the biggest question is who has to take silver.
With all the attention paid to the superstars on the U.S. team, the relays could come down to the performance by lesser-known swimmers.
Cullen Jones, for instance, swam the third leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay that grabbed silver, and he said knows people are expecting him to step up.
"The amount of pressure that's put on me is a lot more than in 2008," Jones said to USA Today. "It's a lot more meaningful. … I know that people are expecting me to step up and do my part.”
Jones swam well enough to give Lochte a lead entering the final leg of the relay, which is a good sign for the U.S. Jones may not be held in the same esteem as Lochte or Phelps, but he is a crucial piece of the U.S. puzzle and will be instrumental moving forward.
Along with Jones, Nathan Adrian was a member of the 4x100 freestyle relay, and he will also likely be a member of the 4x100 medley relay.
Adrian proved he could hang with international competition during the freestyle relay, as he had a lead against Australia’s James Magnussen.
If he can turn in another strong performance in the medley relay, the American team should have no problem grabbing gold.
The U.S. will need strong showings from more than just their heavy hitters, the less-known swimmers will also need to have gold in their eyes.