Ryan Lochte Olympics 2012: Day 6 Is Ultimate Test for American Swimmer

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Ryan Lochte of the United States competes in the first semifinal heat of the Men's 200m Backstroke on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 1, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

After years of buildup and endless amounts of training in the pool for Ryan Lochte, everything comes down to Thursday at the 2012 Olympics Games in London.

Forget #LochteNation, forget the grill he wears in his mouth…this is the day where we ultimately judge Lochte’s performance in the 2012 Games.

He has two finals on the day and will be one of the favorites to win both the 200-meter backstroke and 200 individual medley.

The 200 backstroke is not going to be easy. Fellow American Tyler Clary won the qualifying event in a time of 1 minute, 56.24 seconds, with Lochte in second, 0.12 seconds behind.

Anything less than silver is unacceptable at this point.

While that event is important, the 200 IM is going to be the must-see TV event of the night. Lochte will be competing against Michael Phelps, who has won the event in the last two Olympics. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’ll become the first Olympian to win the event three times if he captures gold tonight.

Then again, Lochte has the world record in the event. So, expect an absolute thriller that will ultimately define the Phleps vs. Lochte rivalry at these Olympics.

Thus far Lochte has been incredibly inconsistent. He looked unbeatable in his gold medal winning swim in the 400 IM on Saturday. Then, he was the weak link on a 4x100-meter freestyle relay where he was a full second slower than Yannick Agnel, who passed him in the end to give the French team gold.

He followed that up with a disappointing fourth place finish in the 200 freestyle and a redeeming effort in his leg of the U.S. gold medal winning 4x200 freestyle team race.

So, he has two strong performances and two mediocre ones on his resume entering action Thursday.

Lochte talked a big game coming into London and has yet to fully deliver on his promise. But, if he is able to capture two golds tonight, his legacy will forever be altered. Four gold medals would be an incredible accomplishment, especially if he denied a record for Phelps in the process.

Make sure you tune-in, because Thursday night is going to be a wild ride in the pool. It's Lochte's final exam.