After Ryan Lochte's 200 I.M. world record (in a textile suit), after his 200 free underwater dolphin kick dominance, and after his 1:52.96 in the 200 backstroke, I'm still hearing these three sentences:
Ryan Lochte swims in Michael Phelps' shadow.
Ryan Lochte plays second fiddle to Phelps, and always will.
Ryan Lochte will never equal Phelps' iconic Olympic performance, eight for eight gold medals.
It no one's fault, not really. Most people don't care about swimming enough to pay attention. Whatever happened at the last Olympics marks their minds, and thus becomes fact going forward.
Inside swimming and behind the scenes, Lochte's success has been a long time coming, a slow burn to success. No one's surprised, though many are relieved to see Lochte's hard work has paid off.
My wife and I dropped in on Lochte at his home in Gainesville back in early February. It was work-related, and we were only able to do the job in between his heavy training sessions. I had a chance to speak with his coach, Greg Troy, and he commented, "Ryan has not missed a practice all season. If he can't make a training session, he makes it up. That's the rule."
Nothing more needs to be said about Ryan's chances for success going forward.
HOWEVER, I do wonder if Ryan's tipped his hand too early?
Ryan can go eight for eight, all gold, at the London Olympics, and, if he does, the performance will be far more spectacular than Michael's...because Ryan will have to do it against the man, Mr. Swimming himself, Michael Phelps.
Phelps is not chopped liver. He's not done. In fact, he's probably gotten a fire lit under his ass.
Phelps thrives on competition. He loves people doubting his dominance. Case in point, his 49 second 100 meter butterfly win over Cavic at the 2009 World Championship in Rome (Phelps' answer to the photo-finish and much debated win at the Olympic Games in Beijing).
Phelps will be ready for London. His performance at the 2011 FINA World Championships has put many rumors to bed. Phelps has swum incredibly well with two personal best times in textile suits (200 I.M. & 100 free).
The question is, has Ryan built enough of a training base to push himself over the top? Often times, swimmers seal their performance years in advance. They've built a base of training 2-3 years ahead time. It appears Ryan has done that, but Phelps has a tremendous base of training in the vault going back to the tender age of 14.
I think Ryan has an 8 for 8 Olympic gold medal performance in him, but I'm not ready to bet the house on it. Like many of my friends, I'd like to let world championships sink in, crunch all the data, and then make a prediction.
In the meantime, I'm simply thankful to be witnessing what will be the greatest match-up ever in the sport of swimming.
RYAN MEDIA WATCH: Here's Ryan in his latest Gatorade video.
Here's RYAN in a SwimOutlet video my wife and I produced (Gold Medal Media):
Latest Gold Medal Delivery with TEAM GOLD: