Watching America's Ryan Lochte lose his half-second lead to France's Yannick Agnel in the final leg of the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay told us more about Michael Phelps.
Looking back, it served as a reminder of just how hard it is to accomplish what Phelps made look so easy at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Phelps narrowly escaped his first two events with gold en route to his record of eight gold medals four years ago. Seeing him finish 0-2 in those same events this year makes that record seem even more spectacular.
Looking ahead, U.S. swimming fans shouldn't be any less optimistic about the coming events.
Lochte proclaimed “this is my time” before the London Games began. He backed those words up by crushing Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley. He quickly found out Sunday night, however, how difficult it will be to follow in Phelps' wake.
Despite what happened in the 400 IM, the biggest challenge to Lochte's rise is still Phelps.
Phelps swam a 47.15 in Sunday's 4x100 freestyle relay. It came as the fastest time among all four American swimmers and the second fastest of anyone in the pool to give the U.S. a body-length lead halfway through the race.
Lochte did his best impression of France's Alain Bernard by losing that lead with a 47.74 anchor leg.
All silver and gold medals aside, the 4x100 busted any myths about the balance of power between Lochte and Phelps. Lochte is not nearly as invincible as he claims or looked while winning his first gold. Phelps is not nearly as vulnerable as Lochte claims or as he looked while failing to medal for the first time since 2000.
Remember 2008? Phelps' best events are still ahead. Bleacher Report's Marilee Gallagher provides a detailed schedule of these remaining events while adding context to how Phelps traditionally dominates all of them.
Phelps previously set an Olympic record in the 200-meter butterfly, his best event. He also helped the U.S. 4x200-meter freestyle relay team win gold in 2004 and 2008. Both of those races run preliminary heats Monday and finals on Tuesday.
The Phelps-Lochte duel resumes with the 200-meter IM, a race Phelps won during the U.S. trials. Preliminary and semifinal heats run Wednesday, August 1. The finals run Thursday, August 2.
Phelps then returns to his best stroke for the 100-meter butterfly, where he is a three-time world champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and current Olympic record holder. Preliminary and semifinal heats run Thursday, August 2. The finals run Friday, August 3.
The 4x100-meter medley relay comes next. Phelps helped the U.S. set a world record in this event at Beijing and then again at the World Championships. That title was recently defended in 2010 and 2011. The preliminary heat runs Friday, August 3 with the finals on Saturday, August 4.
Phelps made perfection look easy in 2008, but even that historic run began with the narrowest of victories. The "easy" part came during his final six events.
The 2012 Games did not start nearly as well for Phelps, but five of his best events are still yet to come. Look for Phelps to finish his decorated career in golden fashion.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!