Ryan Lochte's Olympic journey has been inconsistent thus far, to say the least.
Though he started off with a resounding bang when he dominated rival Michael Phelps—and the rest of the world—in the daunting 400-meter IM, his performances since have been up and down.
After seizing the gold in the 400 IM, he and the U.S. were shockingly upstaged by France in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. Then, in an even more surprising turn of events, Lochte failed to medal at all in the 200-meter freestyle.
But just like that, Lochte and the Americans bounced back up on Tuesday in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, earning yet another gold (and helping Phelps earn his record-breaking 19th Olympic medal).
Heading into the Olympics, fans questioned whether Lochte could come close to equalling the dominance Phelps displayed in Beijing four years ago. Lochte hasn't looked quite as formidable—yet—but there's still time. He still has a lot to prove, and he has time to prove it.
Early on Day 5, Lochte has already dominated. In the 200-meter backstroke, he finished first in Heat 5 at 1:56.36, the second-best qualifying time behind teammate Tyler Clary (1:56.24). In the 200-meter IM qualifier, he finished first in Heat 5 at 1:58.03, also the morning's second-fastest time (and better than Phelps' 1:58.24).
Here are predictions for how Lochte will fare during the rest of the Day 5 action.
Men's 200-Meter Backstroke—Semifinals
2:51 p.m. ET
It was clear during the morning heats that Lochte felt energized by his performance during Tuesday's relay. Lochte isn't like Phelps; he's not stony and silent and totally immune to the suppositions and opinions of outside parties.
So naturally, when pundits and fans started wondering whether Lochte was all hype after his mediocre performance in the 200m free, it probably got to him a little bit. He has far too much confidence to ever question his own abilities, but there's no doubt that his desire to prove himself grew exponentially after that fourth-place finish.
Lochte capitalized on that desire to register a team win in Tuesday's relay. He capitalized again with a dominating performance in Wednesday morning's heats. In the semifinals, he still may come in second to U.S. teammate Tyler Clary, but that's because these are only the semifinals.
During the finals is when Lochte will really turn up the heat. After all, he has to store up some energy—and keep Clary, and the rest of his competition, on their toes.
Men's 200-Meter IM—Semifinals
3:43 p.m. ET
Lately, Lochte is always at his best when Michael Phelps is his primary competition. That's part of the reason why his performance in the 400 IM was so impressive: He gave it his all because aside from winning gold and setting records, his biggest motivator is getting the best of Phelps.
That is why this event will be one of the best to watch during the Olympics. This could be the second-to-last time we ever see Phelps and Lochte face off against each other, and you can bet Lochte is going to make it worth our while. There's no way he's going to let himself be upstaged by Phelps with only two remaining chances to beat him.
Lochte will finish first in the semis—coming out on top of both Phelps and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, who bested him in the qualifier with a blistering time of 1:57.20.
Remember, it was Lochte who set the world record in this event at the 2011 World Championships. Expect him to creep a little bit closer to that time of 1:54.00 as the final gets closer.
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