Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps are representing the United States swim team in the 2016 Olympics for possibly the last time in their decorated swimming careers. Dating back to the 2004 Olympics, the two have endured a friendly rivalry that has continued to this day. The hoarders of gold medals have pushed each other to the apex of their abilities, and the competitive nature between the two created a mutual respect.
Speaking of r-e-s-p-e-c-t, it is something that Lochte doesn’t get enough of. Phelps' accomplishments are insurmountable, and due to the greatness of the most decorated Olympian of all time, Lochte is sort of the forgotten man in the land of Olympic supremacy.
On the surface level, it’s easy to focus on the uber-talented swimmer. Whether it's looking at his bizarrely died hair, his smallish stature compared to his swimming contemporaries or his course his jovial — sometime controversial — personality, Lochte stands out. So while it may seem like a no-brainer to have all eyes on Lochte, it hasn’t really materialized.
As Lochte cements himself as one of the best
swimmers Olympians ever, a shadow is being cast over his Olympic brilliance. I mean, we are talking about the diamond-grill wearin’, gold medal winnin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin', dealin’, son-of-a-gun. But it hasn’t been enough, because he’s caught in the shadow of his fellow USA teammate. That's what happens when said teammate is making his case for being the greatest Olympian of all time.
In an interview with NBC, Lochte mentioned:
Tonight's the night! The greatest rivalry in swimming takes its last epic lap.
Phelps vs. Lochte tonight on @NBC 🏊 https://t.co/G5Zm16XLNv
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 11, 2016
"My career would definitely be different. I guess you would say I’d be like the Michael Phelps of swimming if he wasn’t there. But at the same time I love a challenge, and that’s why I do the events that I do and going up against him is a challenge."
The challenge of going against Phelps isn’t quite like Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi or Steph Curry vs. LeBron James — hell, it's not even Meek Mill vs. Drake.
It’s none of the above.
The two are teammates, and they push each other toward their individual successes while enjoying team success at the same time. Although he is a competitor to Phelps, he’s often seen as the person lagging behind his historic teammate. Their effective, complicated relationship is different, but it works. It’s not quite on the level of Jordan and Pippen — the quirky duo is more like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James or, if you like, Shawn Michaels and Triple H. With a history of rivaling one another, they work well as teammates. The two are fun-loving, entertaining and great at what they do. The negative part about the distinctive relationship between the two swimmers is that too often Lochte is the forgotten man.
To some, Lochte may appear to be inane and less important. In his 12-year run in the swimming landscape, he has grown under the microscope. He’s become dedicated, hard-working, self-disciplined and, of course, a 12-time Olympic medalist in the process. Lochte’s journey includes six gold medals, three silver medals and three bronze medals. His seven individual Olympic medals rank him near the top of the men’s swimming position.
Individually, he also is the world-record setter in the 100-meter individual medley, 200-meter individual medley and 400-meter individual medley. During his run of ascending to Olympic prominence, his few gaffes happen to be a failed reality TV show and the helpless placement of being in the shadow of Phelps.
By now, Lochte should be known by the masses for more than his imprudent ways. Longtime fans know that Lochte is more than a sideshow. They know he is more than a great swimmer with colored hair. They know he is more than a guy who had a penchant for being caught in the glitz and glamor. While Phelps personifies perfection, Lochte isn’t too far behind.
I know he mentioned that he would be the Michael Phelps of swimming if Phelps wasn’t here, but it isn’t bad being Ryan Lochte. In 120 years of modern Olympic history, there are only seven Olympians in history who have more total medals than the blueish-hair phenomenon. If that’s second fiddle, I’ll take that any day of the week
While we are rightfully celebrating the dominance of Phelps, let’s not forget about his teammate, competitor and friend — a friend who’s also one of the greatest Olympians of all time.