Heading into the 2012 London Olympics, Ryan Lochte was the most hyped United States athlete.
Just days into the competition, the 27-year-old swimming extraordinaire has been more ordinary than many had predicted.
Despite winning a gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday, the former Florida Gator has come up short in what was expected to be his coming out party.
After all, wasn’t Lochte supposed to overtake Michael Phelps as the face of American swimming?
Not so fast, Lochte lovers.If there’s anything we’ve learned thus far, it’s a mighty task to win a gold in any event, let alone multiple.
Although Lochte won the 400-meter IM, Team USA’s anchor failed to bring home the gold in the 4x100 freestyle (via Erik Brady of USA Today).
The man charged with finishing the job couldn’t hold onto the lead, squandering Michael Phelps’ team-best leg of 47.15 seconds.
Instead of proving himself in Phelps’ class and narrowing the gold medal gap between the United States and China, Lochte let France swim right by him to steal the gold in a cruel reversal of fortunes from the 2008 games in Beijing.
Settling for silver isn’t the worse thing in the world, but when you’re supposed to out-do Phelps’ 2008 performance, anything less than gold is a disappointment.
With a chance to rebound from his poor relay performance, Lochte once again finished behind the French as the 6'6" Yannick Agnel won the 200-meter freestyle (via Associated Press).
Agnel, who was the shining star of France’s come-from-behind relay victory over Team USA, showed he was more than capable of handling matters on his own, finishing in a blistering time of 1 minute, 43.14 seconds.
Unfortunately for Lochte, finishing behind the French didn’t mean settling for silver.
Heck, it didn’t even mean winning a bronze.
He didn’t even sniff the podium.
The fourth-place finisher was among the biggest letdowns in the race as world-record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany also failed to medal.
While Lochte’s quest for gold certainly isn’t over—he’s still set to compete in the 4x200 freestyle, 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter individual medley—his 2012 performance simply falters in comparison to Phelps’ historic one in ’08.
With eight gold medals in Beijing, Phelps broke Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds in a single Olympic Games.
During his dominant Olympic run, Phelps also posted seven world-record times.
Like Lochte, he won the 400-meter individual medley.
He also happened to lead Team USA to gold in the 4x100 IM, 4x100 freestyle and the 4x200 freestyle.
In turn, Phelps became one of the biggest American sports icons and became the face of American swimming.
Though Phelps has largely underwhelmed in London—he failed to even make the podium in Lochte’s 400-meter IM victory—his resume still remains far more impressive than his teammate’s.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Phelps can rest on his laurels, but in today’s “what have you done for me lately?” society, results are power.
As it stands, Lochte is 1-for-3 in his gold medal quest.
Even if he miraculously finished in first in every remaining race, he’d still only be halfway to matching the Phelps’ ’08 gold medal count.
Sure, Phelps may be blessed with an incredible set of genetics, but wasn't Lochte the guy who altered his diet and trained tirelessly specifically to step out of Phelps' gigantic shadow?
As a Gator, I have no problem saying that I’m rooting for Lochte.
Anytime one of my fellow 37 current or former University of Florida student-athletes is competing on the Olympic stage, it’s something special.
However, in the case of Lochte, there won’t be a unanimous chomp through the competition.
He’s still nipping at the heels of Phelps.
And he always will be.