In recent years, if Michael Phelps were to enter virtually any swimming competition in all likelihood he would be the favorite. Swimming and Michael Phelps go hand-in-hand to the casual fan. Ryan Lochte was a name that is becoming familiar, but was certainly not a household name--yet.
On Saturday, July 28 Ryan Lochte swam to victory and captured the gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley. Phelps finished fourth, failing to medal for the first time since the 2000 Olympic Games.
When the race was over Phelps was in shock. "It was a crappy race," Phelps said. "I felt fine for the first 200 meters and then I just don't know. They just swam a better race - a smarter race than me. They were more prepared. That's why they are on the medal stand."
Does this mean an end of his dominance in the sport? Will he still be able to compete with confidence?
"The biggest thing is to get past this and move forward," Phelps said. "I have a bunch of other races. Hopefully we can finish a lot better than we started."
So Phelps was knocked off his pedestal for a moment, and in that moment it allowed swimming and Olympic fans to pay closer attention to Lochte.
Lochte finished with a time of 4:05.18. Taking silver was Brazil's Thiago Pereira with a time of 4:08.86. Japan's Kosuke Hagino earned bronze with a time of 4:08.94. Phelps finished in fourth with a finish of 4:09.28, a full 4.10 behind Lochte.
For the casual fan, Lochte's emergence is not out of the blue. He went five-for-five at the 2011 Worlds while breaking the 200m IM world record in the process. He has also arguably been the world's best swimmer since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
If Lochte is a name you were not familiar with before, by the end of these 2012 London Olympics that should be no more. As for Phelps, he should be just fine and continue to rack up medals for the remainder of these Games.
Paul Rados' first memory of the Olympic Games was watching with his family as a child in 1984 rampantly cheering for Team USA in any and every sport. He has been hooked ever since. Follow him on Twitter @PSRados