Aug 2, 2012; London, United Kingdom; USA swimmer Ryan Lochte during a press conference following the men's 200m backstroke final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Main Press Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Lochte's Olympics ends with whimper
Ryan Lochte had a chance to win two gold medals and end his time in London with by far the 2012 Olympics' best collection of hardware. Instead, with two "losses" of different flavors, Lochte took the lead in the individual medal count — and will probably come home with a sour taste in his mouth.
Lochte's loss to backstroke specialist Tyler Clary in the 200 meters backstroke was the one that seemed at once to be shocking and expected. Lochte led, if only slightly, for the first 150 meters, then got hawked down by both Clary, who set an Olympic record, and Japan's Ryosuke Irie, finishing with bronze. That's a disappointing finish for Lochte, and not only because he was sniped in almost the exact same manner as he was French speed demon Yannick Agnel in the 4 x 200 relay: He's been faster than he was in the 200 back on Thursday more than once, and was almost a full second faster at the 2011 World Championships.
The loss to Michael Phelps in the 200 IM? Just an extension of a fact we already knew: Ryan Lochte is a great swimmer, one of the best ever ... and Michael Phelps is the best ever. Lochte never challenged Phelps in the race, falling behind on the butterfly and beating him only with a bat-out-of-hell freestyle leg that he needed to move past Laszlo Cseh for silver. This is Phelps' race, evidenced by him taking golds in it in Athens, Beijing, and London, becoming the first men's swimmer to three-peat in an event, and Lochte was just swimming in it.
It's never really been Lochte's pool when Phelps is at the top of his game, and it's no surprise that Lochte's finest era, from 2009 to 2011, when he won nine golds and 11 total medals at World Championships, came with Phelps out of the picture and still returning to form. Being second-best to Phelps is no great shame, but being definitely second to Phelps is either going to consign Lochte to the ash-heap of sports' great also-rans or inspire him to come back strong for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Lochte says he wants to race in Rio, and he's certainly capable of doing the training necessary to do it, considering that Gregg Troy's always let him be himself while putting him through the paces. But Rio is four years away, and the bright lights of Hollywood and big checks of Madison Avenue may never been as alluring as they are now.
I think Lochte's not done with competitive swimming. I hope Lochte's not done with competitive swimming. If he's done with competitive swimming, though, I couldn't blame him in the least.
Beisel set up for gold
Lochte didn't get gold in his last chance, but Elizabeth Beisel not winning one in hers would be a shock. That's how good she was on Thursday.
Beisel steamed to the best qualifying time in the women's 200 meters backstroke on Thursday, and it was her final leg that was really something: She swam it in 31.70, and was the only woman in the semifinals on Thursday to dip below 32 seconds for those last 50 meters.
Beisel won't be without competition on Friday in the final, with American mermaid Missy Franklin and former champion Kirsty Coventry lurking in the event. But her 2:06.18 was a personal best. And she's gotta unleash the swim of her life at some point, right?
Beisel won't be the only Gator in the final, either: Incoming freshman Sinead Russell qualified eighth for the event, and though she's not really a threat to win, the Canadian getting the experience in the event's a great thing for Troy's Gators when fall rolls around.
Great Britain's Steph Proud, the only other Gator in action on Thursday, failed to advance to the final.
Gator Nation Medal Count, Day 4
Total Medals: 6 (Ryan Lochte: 2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze; Elizabeth Beisel 1 silver)
Total Medals For Individual Gators: 7 (Ryan Lochte: 2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze; Conor Dwyer: 1 gold; Elizabeth Beisel 1 silver)
Gold Medals: 2 (Lochte, men's 400 meters IM and men's 4 x 200 meters relay)
Silver Medals: 2 (Lochte, men's 4 x 100 meters relay and men's 200 meters IM ; Beisel, women's 400 meters IM)
Bronze Medals: 1 (Lochte, men's 200 meters backstroke)
Percentage of U.S. Gold Medals, Excluding Transfers: 11.1 percent (2 of 18)
Percentage of U.S. Gold Medals, Including Transfers: 22.2 percent (4 of 18)
Percentage of U.S. Medals, Excluding Transfers: 16.2 percent (6 of 37)
Percentage of U.S. Medals, Including Transfers: 21.6 percent (8 of 37)
For the purposes of our medal count, I'm counting 34 members of Olympic teams as Gators, by the same criteria as Only Gators. GatorZone counts Gators who transferred and finished their collegiate careers elsewhere. I'll calculate stats for both here.
If the University of Florida were its own country, it would currently be in 13th in the medal rankings, just ahead of The Netherlands, and tied for 15th with North Korea and Hungary in the overall Olympic medal count. The former stat ranks teams with better medals first; the latter only includes total medals.
Gator Nation no longer leads Great Britain, but is still ahead of Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa. There are way more people in those countries than Gator Nation.
Lochte, for a night, is atop the individual medal standings at the 2012 Olympics. His five medals are the most of any Olympian in London.
It's also his birthday over there. He seems to be enjoying it.