Ryan Lochte: Michael Phelps & Olympic Swimming 2012 Athletes Rivaling USA Star

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  Ryan Lochte of the United States reacts after he competed in the Final of the Men's 200m Freestyle on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 30, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Ryan Lochte's 2012 Summer Olympic experience hasn't gone according to plan thus far. He managed to earn a gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley, but he's failed to capitalize on his two opportunities after that.

Lochte entered London's games as Team USA's most hyped athlete. He was supposed to take, not be given, Michael Phelps' crown as America's swimming leader. Instead Lochte has given below-average efforts and earned the predictably disappointing results.ย 

He still has two more individual events to make his mark in London. He will partake in the 200-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley on August 2.

Let's take a look at three athletes who will do their best to keep Lochte from earning a medal in either contest.

Michael Phelps

OK, this one is a bit different. Phelps doesn't want to see Lochte miss out on a medal because that would hurt Team USA's overall medal count, and I'll assume Phelps is a "team player."

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That doesn't mean Phelps won't challenge Lochte, though. He is two medals away from becoming the winningest athlete in Olympic history. Adding the pull of that achievement to an athlete of his stature makes him an extremely tough competitor.

Phelps will get a chance to go head-to-head with Lochte in the 200 IM. This comes immediately after Lochte's performance in the 200 back. He will be fatigued, and Phelps will be incredibly stiff competition to face.

Technically they are teammates, but the battle for "top dog" is on. Phelps won't give up without a fight.

Ryosuke Irie

Irie won a bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke and will compete for another medal in the 200 back against Lochte. He's a very talented performer, and Lochte will not have an easy time with him.ย 

He finished fifth in this event in Beijing. Given his momentum from his 100 back medal, you should expect him to be even better in London.

Lochte won't face many swimmers even remotely close to his talent level, but Irie is a definite threat. The 200 back is Lochte's best event, and he won gold in the event in 2008, but it won't be as easy this time around.

Irie is older, more experienced and hungry for another medal after earning his first one this summer.

Laszlo Cseh

Cseh is Lochte's biggest non-American threat in the 200 IM. He took silver in the event in 2008, and he will be hungry to improve on that mark in London.

According to New York Times reporter Karen Crouse, Cseh has won nine world championship medals since 2003. He's one of the best all-around swimmers in the world who isn't named Lochte or Phelps.

Cseh has to be tired of playing second, or third, fiddle on the world swimming stage. London is his time to shine, and Lochte is currently standing in his way.ย 

Lochte may get the better of him on August 2, but Cseh will push him to the limit. You may not know his name now, but you will soon enough.