People were jumping ship off the Michael Phelps boat in droves after he finished fourth in the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday. No one knew what to think. Michael Phelps in fourth place? Kids in Baltimore cried themselves to sleep (not really).
All the letdown from Phelps, however, was eased by Lochte.
Lochte had won gold and had also won the hearts of every female watching (at least it seemed that way on Twitter). He even wore a grill to the medal ceremony.
Lochte was the golden boy. But he didn't shine on Day 2.
While a silver medal is nothing to scoff at, the U.S. should have defended its gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay. Instead, Lochte lost a considerable lead on his anchor leg and allowed France's Yannick Agnel to seize the moment and take back the gold.
Jason Lezak, the race's American hero in 2008, watched in the stands, probably muttering to himself about how he could have won the race again if he had been given a chance.
Agnel is no pushover. He finished sixth in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. Lochte, however, won that event and was nearly a second faster. In the 4x100 relay on Sunday, Agnel's leg was a full second faster than Lochte's.
A second is a considerable amount of time to give up in an elite 200-meter freestyle race. In a 100-meter freestyle race, it's a lifetime.
None of the swimmers from the morning heat (Lezak, Matt Grevers, Ricky Berens and James Feigen) were included in the final.
The U.S. coaches, in this sense, may be guilty of what we as American sports fans were after the first day.
With the Phelps era fading, Lochte became our new pillar of invincibility in the pool. The coaches underestimated, however, that Lochte is relatively inexperienced in the 100-meter freestyle. They saw him as the untouchable one who would give us the anchor leg needed to win the title. Instead, he faltered.
This isn't to say that Ryan Lochte will not be the most dominant swimmer at these London Olympics. It is saying, however, that he puts his Speedos on one leg at a time just like every other swimmer.
He's mortal, and it only took us two days of the Olympics to find that out.
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