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Men's Olympic Swimming 2012: 5 Favorites Who Fell Short of Expectations

Marilee GallagherContributor IINovember 23, 2016

Men's Olympic Swimming 2012: 5 Favorites Who Fell Short of Expectations

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    For all of the Olympic triumphs, there are also defeats.

    For all of the amazing, surprising and record-breaking performances, there are also underwhelming showings, sometimes even by the most clear and expected favorites.

    In the case of the swimming competition, there have a been a number of the world's best stars that faltered on the big stage.

    All of them have either won Olympic medals or world championships, but in London, all of them fell short to obtain a gold in their signature event.

    The signs of defeat, evidenced by a bent head, face clear with the signs of dejection, a look of puzzlement and shock, left only to wonder "what happened?" was on each of these men's faces at least once during the course of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

    So for all of the medals, all of the triumphs, past, present and possibly future for some of these guys, in some aspects of the word, it just seems that 2012 wasn't their year. 

Ryan Lochte (Men's 200-Meter Backstroke, 4x100 Freestyle Relay)

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    Ryan Lochte came into the 2012 London Olympics determined to be the best swimmer in the world.

    After finishing second to Michael Phelps in Beijing, Lochte decided he didn't want to live in his rival's shadow anymore.

    Coming into London, he was touted as one of the best swimmers in the world and the current holder of four individual world titles.

    Naturally, expectations were high for Lochte to bring home gold medal loot.

    As a result, the five medals he did secure—only two being of the golden variety—can be seen as somewhat of a disappointment.

    Perhaps the most disappointing event for Lochte was not the only one he didn't medal in (200-meter free), but rather the two that he was a lock for gold but came away with silver and bronze.

    The first was the men's 4x100 free relay, in which Lochte—despite being staked to a sizeable lead—was not able to hold it.

    As the anchor leg, he was expected to power past the rest of the men in the pool to bring the U.S. to gold. Unfortunately, he dropped the ball, relinquishing the lead as he just ran out of steam in the last 50 meters.

    If that wasn't bad enough, Lochte also was forced to fake a smile as he stood on the podium after the 200-meter backstroke final in which he finished a disappointing third.

    Once again he was chased down in the final seconds, this time by Tyler Clary, who also broke Lochte's Olympic record.

    Lochte was the clear favorite in this event, having been both the defending world and Olympic champion.

    Like his entire Olympic Games however, he just fell short of the expectations of others and the ones he undoubtedly placed on himself.

James Magnussen (Men's 100-Meter Free, 4x100 Free Relay)

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    The confident and sometimes cocky James Magnussen came into the London Olympics as one of the best 100-meter freestyle swimmers in the world.

    He was the defending world champion, where he notched an absolute blistering time in the final 50 meters of the race to secure the gold.

    He also came into the Games, as the favorite to win this event.

    The 21-year-old known as "The Missile" was expected to make a big splash in the pool for the 100 free, but before that, he was tasked with the all-important lead off leg of the men's 4x100-meter free relay.

    Having swam this race at the world championships—and setting a record breaking split in the process—Magnussen was expected to get a lead big enough that no one could catch the rest of his teammates.

    He didn't. 

    To put it simply, Magnussen did not deliver.

    The "Missile" never took off.

    He swam a very mediocre leg, not even managing to distance himself from American Nathan Adrian, who as it turned out swam the race of his life.

    With Magnussen's leg, Australia was ultimately taken out of the relay. The favorites going in, all they managed was a fourth-place finish as their young star failed to deliver what he was capable of doing.

    In the 100-free, Magnussen had a better time than his relay performance, but was once again not the best. He was shocked again by Adrian and the Aussie was only able to walk away with the silver.

Kosuke Kitajima (Men's 100-Meter and 200-Meter Breaststroke)

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    After Michael Phelps failed to become the first male swimmer to three-peat as an Olympic champion in the 400-meter individual medley, Kosuke Kitajima of Japan had that chance in an event he has dominated over the years, the 100-meter breaststroke.

    It was almost a disastrous start for Kitajima, who was initially disqualified in his preliminary heat.

    It was believed that he went off of the blocks too early and as a result looked like he might not even get a shot at the three-peat.

    After a protest by the Japanese Olympic Committee, the call was reviewed and it was clear that Kitajima did not jump the gun and was reinstated in the race.

    Going into the finals, Kitajima was one of the favorites, as he had only lost this race once in the past seven years. That loss came against America's Brendan Hansen who made the decision to come out of retirement just to have one more shot at beating his rival.

    When the race started, Kitajima didn't even stand a chance. He got off to a bad start and had a bad wall as well.

    Hansen, however, had a great swim and snuck in for the bronze. Kitajima barely managed fifth.

    It was one of the biggest disappointments of the London Games.

    Kitajima still had a chance in the 200-meter breast as it turned out. With Phelps failing to win the 200-meter butterfly, Kitajima could still become the first male swimmer to win three straight golds.

    It didn't happen.

    Although he did manage to improve his finish in the 100-meter fly, he still fell short of the podium, finishing fourth.

    With two races down and no individual medals, Kitajima certainly fell below expectations.

Michael Phelps (Men's 200-Meter Butterfly, 400-Meter Individual Medley)

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    It is hard, no scratch that, it is near impossible to ever say that someone who won 21 career medals, 17 of them gold, could ever be considered as having a performance that fell under expectations.

    Meaning no disrespect at all to the legend that has become Michael Phelps, but this was not the Olympic Games that he had envisioned.

    Phelps—who came into these Olympic Games needing just two medals of any color to become the most medaled Olympian of all-time—started these Games on a bit of a sour note.

    In the 400-meter IM, Phelps' first of seven events, he failed to medal, finishing fourth and behind Ryan Lochte.

    For Phelps, it wasn't so much losing to Lochte that provided the biggest shock, but rather that he didn't medal.

    The last time Phelps' failed to medal in an Olympic event was in 2000, when he was in just one event and was just 15 years old.

    In this day and age, post-Phelps' eight-for-eight gold phenomena, it is a near impossibility to think that an event would ever go by that would see Phelps off of the podium, but this was exactly the case.

    For that reason, even though the 400-meter IM was not one of his best events, he was the two-time defending Olympic champion, and it was a disappointment for him not to medal.

    After this event, Phelps went on to collect a silver in the 4x100 free relay and a gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay, ultimately giving him his 19th medal and cementing his standing as best of all-time.

    In between these two events however, was the 200-meter butterfly, an event that Phelps had never lost in international competition since he won the world title in 2003.

    He was the clear favorite going in but in the last few seconds of the race, he was out-touched by one of his greatest admirers, South African Chad le Clos.

    Although he claimed the silver medal, he was not happy that he relinquished the lead. As far as silvers go, this was probably the most disappointed you will ever someone who just won one. 

Cesar Cielo (100-Meter Freestyle, 50-Meter Freestyle)

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    Cesar Cielo was the clear favorite in London for both the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle sprints.

    He was the defending gold medalist in the 50-meter and the defending bronze medalist in the 100. He is also a former world champion and current world record holder in both events.

    His first race was the 100-meter free and Cielo was certainly not as advertised.

    He did not have a good qualifying or semifinal race and it carried over to the finals as the Brazilian swimmer could not win gold, nor could he even defend his bronze.

    He finished in sixth.

    It was a very disappointing and underwhelming performance for Cielo who was one of the clear favorites.

    He was determined to rebound however and still had his best and favorite event coming up—the 50-meter free.

    In the semifinal heats, Cielo was at his best. He qualified atop the leaderboard along with American Cullen Jones, both of whom were heavily favored to contend for medals.

    Despite a strong semifinal time however, Cielo could not match it nor did he come close to his world record of 20.91 seconds.

    He was bested by surprise gold medal winner, France's Florent Manaudou, and Jones, who finished with the silver.

    Cielo, on the other hand, the defending gold medalist, only managed the bronze, capping a very disappointing Olympic Games for the swimmer.

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