Forget about Phelps vs. Lochte, because there's a new American swimming superstar in town.
And nobody is more relieved about that than Tyler Clary himself.
The U.S. star broke the Olympic record in winning the 200-meter backstroke final on Thursday, earning his first medal of the 2012 Olympics.
The win wasn't a surprise to anyone who's watched the 23-year-old California native during these Games: During Wednesday's qualification, his top time of 1:56.24 blew away the competition—including teammate Ryan Lochte—and he was even better in the semifinals, finishing in 1:54.71, once again trumping Lochte's time of 1:55.40.
The young swimmer found himself trailing the highly-touted Lochte through 150 meters in the final, but he made up the difference to finish the race in 1:53:41, more than half a second faster than Lochte, who earned the bronze.
Clary may have gotten off on the wrong foot this summer, but now, that is a distant memory. Before the Games, the young American infamously made headlines for questioning Michael Phelps' preparation, via Scott Gleeson of USA Today.
But after this win, you won't find Clary talking trash. You won't find him strolling around the pool, grinning behind his multicolored grill and talking about how this year is his year.
Ever since using the media to take Phelps down a peg nearly a month ago, Clary has been quiet and trained hard. Now, he doesn't need to flaunt his times and his medals; they flaunt themselves all on their own.
When all is said and done, finishing fifth in the 200-meter butterfly on Tuesday was perhaps good for Clary. Perhaps it put him in his place a little bit, which, judging from his pre-Olympics comments about Phelps, was something he needed.
Maybe he wouldn't have medaled at all in this event without all of the drama that led up to it.
Clary likely learned a lot in London this summer. Earlier this week, he learned that maybe he should refrain from trash-talking one of the greatest Olympians in history—not to mention his own teammate and training partner—before he swims one Olympic race.
But Clary also learned that redemption is still possible, even when you struggle out of the gates. That's a lesson he could've learned from Phelps from the very beginning.
Clary may not be a bubbly, charming character like Lochte, and he may not be a stoic, record-shattering legend like Phelps. But finally, he has something in common with both of his American contemporaries.
Finally, he's an Olympic gold medalist.
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