Ryan Lochte will not win 19 Olympic medals.
His nine are impressive nonetheless, but there is still a lot of swimming to do before Lochte is mentioned in the same breath as Michael Phelps.
With the attention paid to Phelps during the 2008 Beijing Games, Lochte largely stayed in Phelps’ shadow, as he did not receive much attention.
Lochte performed well in Beijing, earning four medals. However, considering what Phelps did in the 2008 Games, any other swimmer’s performance looked rather minuscule.
These Olympics have been different though, especially for Lochte.
He has become the poster boy for American swimming and has taken over the title of top dog in the sport from Phelps.
Let’s pump the brakes a little bit.
Lochte is good, no doubt, but Phelps is in another pantheon of swimming compared to his USA teammate.
Lochte currently has nine medals, a staggering feat for any Olympian. But his medal count is dwarfed when compared to Phelps, who has 15 gold medals to his name.
Lochte, on the other hand, has only five gold medals.
Furthermore, the two are the same age, and it seems as if their peak performance window will close at relatively similar times. Phelps has already seen his ability slip during these Games, as he collected his first Olympic silver medal this year.
Nevertheless, with Phelps’ dominance coming to an end, that leaves the window open for Lochte.
He has taken advantage of his chances so far and has undoubtedly bested Phelps during some world championship races.
But Lochte needs to execute at the highest level at the Olympics. He needs to bring home gold, because after the standard Phelps set, silver just is not good enough.
Call it unfair, but Phelps created a benchmark that may not be met for a long time. His performance in the 2008 Olympics was breathtaking and will go down in history as one of, if not the best, Olympic performances of all time.
Lochte will not best his record of eight gold medals, especially not this year. Through three events, Lochte only has one gold and one silver medal—far from a dominant Olympic showing.
With that being said, it is hard to discount what Lochte has done. He has beaten Phelps already in the 400-meter individual medley, and he could do it again when they match up in the 200-meter individual medley.
However, this is not Phelps’ Olympics. These are Lochte’s, and if he wants to be known as the best in sport, he must earn it.
Phelps came into Beijing as the undisputed No. 1 swimmer in the world. His performance lived up to the billing.
Lochte came into London hailed as the new top dog for USA swimming. So far, he is better known for faltering in the freestyle relay than he is for his one gold medal.
The comparison between the two is unfair to Lochte, because he is simply not the swimmer Phelps was. They may be competitors this year, but Lochte should be competing against Phelps' records.
If Lochte wants to rewrite the record books, he will need to start in the Olympics, where Phelps’ name is seemingly engraved.
He has a long journey to ever being in the same breath as Phelps, and understandably so.
Lochte may be a world-class athlete and an Olympic medalist, but he is not the best Olympian of all time.
Phelps’ medal run was simply an anomaly considering his prolonged superiority over everyone else in the sport.
Lochte’s peak came at the wrong time, as he was stuck in second place and is simply trying to make up for lost time.