Who’s the better swimmer? Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte?
Why do we have to choose?
Team USA representatives Phelps and Lochte fans were somewhat divided as these two fantastic swimmers ran away from these Olympic games with a combined 11 medals (Lochte winning 2 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze; Phelps winning 4 gold and 2 silver) and the general consensus was that Ryan Lochte choked.
Before I get into all of that though, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to Phelps’ career, as yesterday he swam his last Olympic race, taking home the gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay with teammates Matt Grevers, Brendan Hansen, and Nathan Adrian.
This race put Phelps at a career total 22 medals over three Olympic games (18 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze), making him the most decorated Olympian of all-time. He began his journey in Athens in 2004, dominated the competition in Bejing in 2008, and brought it all home in London this past week.
The record he now holds is unlike anything that anyone has ever seen or accomplished. The previous medal record was held by Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 18 medals over her Olympic career and held the record for an astounding 48 years. This makes Michael Phelps truly, a once in a life time Olympian and athlete. Without the use of PEDs and the dedication of countless hours in the pool and in the gym conditioning and training, Phelps has accomplished something that isn’t likely to be seen again for quite some time.
For this Olympic game in London, Team USA’s Ryan Lochte was favorited to to take home a lot of gold hardware and possibly even keep Phelp’s medal count down. As reigning world champion and after a simply stunning performance at the Olympic trials, Lochte was seen as the new hero of the day for the Americans.
With a grueling swim schedule and new, tougher competition, Lochte didn’t take home as much gold as people expected and immediately, the reaction is that he “choked.” After swimming three times prior to yet another race on the same day, Lochte and team took silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay to the French.
People said that Lochte choked and cost the USA a medal and that he is not all the hype. I don’t find that true at all, and not as a Lochte fan-girl, but as someone who is stepping back and analyzing the situation for what it is.
Michael Phelps has American fans spoiled over his performance in the last Olympics. The truth of the matter is that what Phelps accomplished was no small feat. In fact, Phelps accomplished really the impossible. He is an elite athlete and he did something extremely rare-something that it took almost half a century to see again.
This year, people had the high expectation that Lochte would put on a performance that would match that of Phelps in Bejing. It didn’t happen, but five medals is absolutely nothing to scoff at. That in itself is quite an unreal accomplishment. They may not all have been gold, but if winning an Olympic medal were easy, we’d all do it. The competition from this year from France, Australia, South Africa, and various Asian countries was extremely steep. Sometimes the other guy is just better or you are exhausted because you swam x amount of times that day.
As Americans, we should just feel fortunate that we have the privilege of being able to cheer for so many fantastic athletes representing our country. The swimmers this year overall trounced the competition from Phelps and Lochte to Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, and Dana Vollmer.
The US swimmers were positively golden this year. Let’s celebrate that!