Ryan Lochte: Why 2008 Experience Benefits Swimming Star's 2012 Campaign

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  Ryan Lochte of the United States reacts after he competed in the Final of the Men's 200m Freestyle on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 30, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The first weekend of the London Olympics was highlighted by the anticipated showdown between American swimming stars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley. It was apropos that the apprentice outdueled the master, with Lochte easily winning the gold medal and Phelps finishing far off the pace in fourth place.

Observers have been impressed with Lochte’s poise in accepting his newfound fame, as he greatly benefited from watching the media frenzy surrounding Phelps at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The eight-time Olympic medalist has found that endless drive to outperform his opponents in the water. Lochte is never satisfied with his final end time in a race, often feeling that he could have outdone himself if given another opportunity.

Despite being Phelps’ main competition in Beijing, Lochte was a relative unknown outside the swimming community. He was getting frustrated at finishing second to him in head-to-head races, and knew something had to change in order to become the best. Lochte devised and implemented a new game plan immediately after the 2008 games concluded.

He has become more in tune with his body, as Lochte changed his diet—something that yielded immediate results. He rarely stresses about unexpected additional media requests and simply shrugs them off as being part of the process in becoming the new face of American swimming.

To excel in the Olympics, you must adjust well to the sudden changes in your daily schedule. In the past, Lochte's experience in international competition has been a bumpy road—often leaving him with disappointment in his performance. Now, Lochte has conditioned himself to be more relaxed prior to a race, and hardly gets emotional at the end of them regardless of the outcome.

Yes, it hard to imagine any swimmer matching or surpassing Phelps' dominance in the water, but Lochte is the biggest threat to his throne. You have to love the intrigue of this rivalry between these two Americans, as you cannot mention one without the other.

Lochte doesn’t live in seclusion or entomb firmly inside an entourage. No, he’s just another swimmer in pursuit of a faster time.