Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte of the U.S. react after their men's 200m individual medley semi-final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre. (Photo : REUTERS/David Gray )
**Update** 4:05 p.m. EDT - Michael Phelps' Smile 'Enchanting' after Winning Gold; Ryan Lochte Earns Silver in 200m IM Final (PHOTOS)
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Swimming doesn't even seem to be an international sport for the United States. Sure there are fantastic, world-class swimmers from other countries, but all eyes in America are locked on two swimmers: Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Both are set to compete August 2 in the 200-meter individual medley event at 3:19 p.m. EDT. The question is, can Lochte find a way to step out of Michael Phelps' shadow and become the new face of American swimming?
Phelps has been the golden boy of United States Olympics ever since he went into Beijing in 2008 with the herculean task of winning eight gold medals and actually accomplishing it. In London, he has become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, gathering two medals in one day for a total of 20, surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's previous record of 18.
Lochte was expected to be the swimmer that took over the reins. His performance this Olympics hasn't been exactly stellar, but it hasn't been lackluster either. He has three medals so far, two gold medals and a silver. One of the gold medals was a victory against Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley.
Lochte has two events left to compete in, the 200-meter individual medley and the 200-meter backstroke. In the 200-meter individual medley semifinals on August 1, Lochte came back in the last 100 meters to overtake Phelps and post the fastest qualifying time. His 200-meter backstroke time is only behind Clary Tyler of the United States.
Even if Lochte wins gold in both events, there isn't much hope that the media will start following him around instead of Phelps. Phelps has made Olympic history with a feat and schedule that would be hard for any Olympic athletes to match. He medaled in his first 16 Olympic events in 2004 and 2008 with two bronze (the other 14 were all gold medals). Phelps had a strong start to his career, and kept up a pace that now puts him on track to possibly win 22 medals. Lochte, meanwhile, has much less invincible image.
Lochte is definitely one of the best swimmers in the world. The problem is that at the moment his American teammate is the greatest Olympic athlete in history. Lochte will likely not be able to gain the strong foothold into America's hearts that Phelps did, and only future events will give him the breathing room to assert himself.