The alarm bells sounded when Michael Phelps missed the medal podium for the 400-meter individual medley. Questions about his dedication and motivation had dogged him leading up to the London Games, and they had only gotten stronger with Phelps' poor start.
Less than one week later, Phelps has us shaking our heads in amazement once again.
The man seemingly out of myth added to his legend by becoming the first to win an Olympic swimming event in three straight Olympics, beating rival Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM. He did so in nearly world-record fashion, punctuating his indelible Olympic career and casting off his critics in the process.
One day after becoming the most decorated Olympian in history, Phelps turned in his best performance of the 2012 Games.
The Baltimore Bullet looked like he was shot from a cannon, leading the 200-meter medley contenders with a world-record pace for much of the race. This was his last race against Lochte at the Olympics—perhaps ever, if he makes good on his promises to retire—and it was a chance to exact revenge on his rival after getting blown out of the water in the 400 medley.
Lochte swam with a face full of Phelps' wake throughout the race, and he could not muster a comeback in yet another disappointing finish for the would-be usurper.
Phelps has won four medals in London—two of the gold variety thus far—to add to his record tally, and he has a chance to add two more in the 100-meter butterfly and 4x100-meter team medley. But a redemptive victory over the man who virtually threw a gauntlet at Phelps' feet was perhaps the sweetest one for arguably the greatest Olympian of all time. Lochte said to Reuters' Julian Linden:
In 2008, Michael Phelps set the limit, eight gold medals. That's amazing. But he's human. He's not a fish or anything like that. He's just like all of us, and he trained really hard to get there.
Honestly, I feel like this is my time. I have definitely put in the work and it's something that I believe so strong that I know I can make this happen.
He may not be a fish, but Phelps proved he is still the greatest swimmer in the world with an emphatic victory over his biggest rival.