Ryan Lochte: Despite Successes, Lochte Will Always Be No. 2 to Michael Phelps

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIAugust 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Gold medallist Michael Phelps (R) of the United States shakes hands Silver medallist Ryan Lochte of the United States on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's 200m Individual Medley final on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Even before Ryan Lochte's hyped showdown with Michael Phelps in the 200m individual medley at the 2012 London Olympics, Lochte really had no chance of ever beating Phelps.

While some better turns could have netted him the gold in the race, his second-place finish to Phelps was only consistent with his overall swimming career.

Ryan Lochte is a great American swimmer, but he will always be second to Michael Phelps.

Speed bumps in London

Given their impressive resumes, both Lochte and Phelps have dealt with some serious drawbacks in the 2012 games.

In the Men's 4x100m freestyle relay, the American team featuring Phelps and Lochte fell apart in a last-second loss to France.

Individually, the 200m backstroke was disappointing for Lochte earlier this afternoon.

In his best stroke by far, Lochte blew a lead and finished third behind fellow American Tyler Clary and Japan's Ryosuke Irie. Perhaps his most underwhelming performance was a fourth-place finish in the 200m freestyle on July 30th.

Phelps has not been amazing either.

While he has rebounded from a rough start to win the 200m individual medley, Phelps dropped a tight race to South Africa's Chad Le Clos, and looked mortal in a fourth-place finish in the 400m individual medley.

Both have rebounded, but neither should be too happy with their Olympic performances thus far.

Lochte has the edge in London with one more medal overall than Phelps. 

Still, two golds, two silvers and a bronze are not nearly enough to compete with the accomplishments of Phelps.

Even if Lochte goes on to dominate the rest of the Olympics, his slow start is enough to end the perception that he could contend for the crown of the world's best swimmer.

Transcending the Sport

The intangible components of Michael Phelps' magic in the 2008 Beijing Olympics solidified him as one of the greatest Olympians of all time.

Phelps' pursuit of eight gold medals in the 2008 games captivated fans across the globe.

His passion and drive made him an icon in American sports, unheard of in swimming since the success of Mark Spitz in the Munich Olympic games 36 years before.

Phelps became even more of a household name, as he stole the show in Beijing.

His success overshadowed Usain Bolt's speed and Team USA's basketball redemption to the point that he rejuvenated a sport desperately needing some life.

Phelps' 20 medals thus far have made him the most decorated Olympian of all time, breaking Larisa Latynina's incredible record of 18 overall medals.

In a sport that demands perfection, Phelps has almost always shown up.

The same cannot be said about Ryan Lochte. Even with his impressive performances, Lochte will forever be in the shadow of Michael Phelps.

For fans across the globe, Phelps' run at Beijing was unprecedented, his successes in London are just the icing on the top.

In a sense Lochte is similar to what Joe Frazier was to Muhammad Ali: a worthy competitor that will always play second fiddle to the greatest.

Phelps is the gold standard.

What's done is done and the best Lochte can finish in modern swimming is No. 2.