A lot of people seemed to make a lot of assumptions when they anointed Ryan Lochte as the next Michael Phelps. You could just hear the wheels turning in the sponsors' brains: he's just like Phelps, except he's handsome! And if we sign him up now, we'll get to air our ads during the Olympics, when they'll be most effective!
Well, Lochte is certainly handsomer than the dorky-looking Phelps. But as for the swimming, Michael set the bar at Olympic perfection, and that's an awfully high bar to clear.
Ryan has gotten beaten badly each of the last two nights, yesterday not even medaling in the 200 free. And that's made some of those ads which air immediately following his events ("Luck didn't get me to London -- I swam there") seem just a tad presumptuous.
Part of the problem is that Phelps was more naturally inclined to go into automaton-mode; in Beijing he put the blinders on, and didn't come up for air until his eight events were over. Ryan, by contrast, stayed up until 2AM celebrating with his family the night of the 400 IM, even though he had two 200 freestyles to swim the next day. (Note to Ryan -- you're not supposed to celebrate until all your events are over.)
But part of the problem is simply that there are other swimmers, like the 6' 8" Yannick Agnel, who want to win just as badly as Ryan, and who may simply be more talented in their specialties.
People forget that Phelps was in fact lucky to win his eight golds. First, Milorad Cavic raised his head too early at the end of the 100 fly, slowing himself down. Second, Jason Lezak managed a superhuman performance on the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay to save Phelps's gold there.
And even Michael hasn't been able to pull off another Phelps this time around.
Ryan will swim in the 800 free relay tonight, which the Americans will most likely win, though they're no longer the overwhelming favorites they were a week ago. And he will probably win the 200 backstroke. The 200 IM is still a tossup between him and Phelps; we'll get a better sense of Michael's condition when he swims the 200 fly tonight. But it's already too late for Lochte to achieve perfection, and given that that's what he's been set up to do, he looks a trifle silly.
This is a little unfair, because he's still a great all around swimmer.
And he still looks like a Greek god.
Unfortunately, the character from Greek mythology he most resembles at the moment is Icarus.