After years spent in the long shadow of Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte came into the London Games proclaiming, "This is my time." The 27-year-old swimmer made a stunning impression in his first event, the 400-meter individual medley, by crushing the opposition and relegating Phelps to an embarrassing fourth-place finish. (Lochte also made waves outside the pool by sporting a $25,000 diamond grill over his teeth.) But after that first gold medal, things started sliding downhill. Lochte let down his teammates in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, giving up a sizable lead in the last leg and allowing Team France to avenge its 2008 loss to the Americans. And then Lochte failed to even reach the podium in the individual 200-meter freestyle, with the gold again going to Frenchman Yannick Angel, who also overtook Lochte in the relay race. Lochte and the rest of the American swimming team managed to win gold in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay on Tuesday, but Lochte's role was largely overshadowed, as the event made Phelps the most decorated Olympian of all time. After all the hype, is Lochte overrated?
Yes. Lochte is not the next Phelps: "Goodbye Olympics cover boy; hello humility," says Mike Wise at The Washington Post. "All presumptions about the carefree Floridian being to London what Michael Phelps was to Beijing need to end. Now." Lochte graced the covers of innumerable magazines, which all seemed to predict a dominant performance at the London Games, but he "ran out of gas" in two straight events, and seemed to be treading water "behind a superior Frenchman for the second night in a row." Don't believe the Lochte hype.
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No. Phelps gave rise to impossible expectations: "The truth of the matter is that Phelps spoiled us," says Alessandro Miglio at Bleacher Report. Phelps' record-setting eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics made it seem easy to bag a bunch of medals, but Phelps' was truly an "amazing feat" that would be nearly impossible for anyone to repeat. All of us — including the talented Lochte, who signed up for an overambitious six events — simply need to recalibrate our expectations.
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And Lochte still has a chance to redeem himself: Lochte's "up-and-down" performance has turned him into a real scapegoat, says David Roth at The Wall Street Journal. But Lochte "may yet turn things around." He still has the 200-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley. Remember, "the Olympic churn in events such as swimming is so dramatic that athletes often oscillate between champ and chump in the space of a day." Lochte already knows a thing or two about that. Stay tuned.
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