Riding high off his gold medal win over teammate and Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte had the lead going into the last lap of the 400-meter freestyle relay before the French team pulled away with the gold medal.
But don't blame Lochte! Blame the knucklehead who put him out there:
It's true that Ryan Lochte, the 400 IM champion and would-be Olympic hero, blew a sizable lead in the United States' loss to France at the Aquatic Center in London. This came after leadoff man Nathan Adrian touched the wall first, Michael Phelps swam faster than any of the 32 men in the race, with the exception of the one who chased down Lochte, and Cullen Jones went faster in 2012 than he went during the American's epic victory in 2008. Thus, it's not entirely unfair to pin the loss on Lochte. He dove into the pool with a lead of 0.55 seconds and emerged from it having lost by the same exact margin.
It was a bad swim at a bad time against a man, Yannick Agnel, who was primed for a comeback. All of that is undeniable. Still, don't blame Lochte for blowing the race in the anchor leg. Save the derision for the man who put him there.
Team USA coach Gregg Troy knows Lochte isn't a sprint freestyler. He knows that of Lochte's many swimming gifts, closing speed isn't near the top. He knows Lochte has competed in four races totaling 1,200 meters already in London, including a 200-meter freestyle semifinal an hour before the relay final. He knows Lochte doesn't fit the mold of a sprint anchor. And still he put him in that role. It was a gamble, perhaps made the from the high of Lochte's dominant victory in the 400 IM and his too-quick coronation as the king of swimming. It didn't make sense when it was announced and it didn't make sense after.
Phelps,after looking washed up on Saturday, looked like a champion again on Sunday. And Lochte just reminded us of how good (and lucky!) Phelps was in 2008.