Ryan Lochte has received a brutally quick lesson in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at the 2012 Games.
Between the 2004 and 2008 Games, Lochte had won six medals, including three gold, but was barely known beyond swimming circles, so great was the shadow of teammate Michael Phelps.
But with dominating performances at the 2010 World Championships and in Dubai and the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, Lochte earned back-to-back World Swimmer of the Year and American Swimmer of the Year awards.
London was to be Lochte's coronation, his chance on the world stage to finally come out from Phelps' shadow, and Lochte wasted no time in seizing the opportunity.
"This is my time," Lochte declared in June.
On Saturday Lochte, became the first American to win gold at this year's games, winning the men's 400 meter individual medley by more than 3 and a half seconds.
And lest there be any doubt we were witnessing a changing of the guard, Phelps finished fourth, popping his head out of the water with a look of disbelief that went viral.
Suddenly Lochte was the It Boy of the Games. People couldn’t get enough of his bejeweled grills, his catchphrase, "Jeah!" or his love of collage and swimwear design, he got his own
"Call Me Maybe" parody--Everyone wanted to be a member of Lochte Nation.
Just a day later, however, Lochte's fortunes took a turn. In Sunday's men's 4x100m freestyle relay, Phelps swam a spectacular second leg, increasing the U.S. lead from 0.14 to 0.76, but with Lochte swimming anchor, the lead slowly shriveled, as Frenchman Yannick Agnel ran him down in the last 25 meters, and the U.S. had to settle for silver.
Monday saw Lochte again unable to keep pace with Agnel, who took gold in the men's 200m freestyle, with Lochte finishing a distant fourth, 1.90 seconds back of the Frenchman. It was the first Olympic event of his career in which he'd failed to medal.
"Lochte Nation has failed to medal. Maybe its time for Ryan Lochte to defect back to the United States and race for the Red, White and Blue," tweeted Not Bill Walton.
These games are far from over--Lochte will compete in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay, the 200m Individual medley, the men's 200m backstroke—yet his one-way ticket to the Wheaties box has been revoked.
But Lochte's performance thus far isn’t evidence of his own inadequacies; rather it's a testament to otherworldly of athletic prowess Phelps' showed at the 2008 Games. Having six gold and two bronze in the 2004 Games, Phelps went to Beijing with a nation expecting him to win an unprecedented eight gold medals.
Lochte's got a decent shot at being our nation's most decorated Olympian this year. But Phelps still has the chance to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.