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Friday, August 3, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week: Olympic Edition

Because the Olympics only come around once every couple of years, we’ve focused our attention this week on the major splatting action unfolding in London.

NBC garnered more than one vote for its “You’ll See What We Want You To, When We Want You To” 2012 Olympics coverage model, according to which they treat TV watchers to live footage of heart-stopping croquet action and dish out stingy rations of swimming on extreme time delay. 

No doubt we speak for all U.S. viewers when we say the delay hasn't bothered us at all.  It’s no big deal to don a pair of blinders and walk around with our fingers in our ears to avoid finding out the results of marquee events through astounding 21st century technology like the office water cooler.  Our patience really paid off when, somewhere in the middle of our hours-long wait to watch Missy Franklin make her first run at a gold medal, NBC thoughtfully suggested we tune in to tomorrow’s “Today Show” to see a chat with brand new gold medalist Missy Franklin. We’re so impressed by NBC's self-scooping that we're considering announcing today that we've awarded them next week's prize.

While we mull that over, we return to the action in London this week.  The Olympics are one big splat-fest.  Every day produces new tales of success, failure, and everything in between, so choosing a lone standout is tough (especially since we lack complicated tiebreaking rules like they have in women’s gymnastics).  But after much careful consideration, we’ve decided to give the gold medal in Synchronized Splatting to the Poster Boys of U.S. Swimming--Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps—for an Olympic story that covers the full splat gamut.

After Phelps dominated the 2008 Beijing Olympics and earned a record-setting eight gold medals, he  took a well-deserved breather.  While resting on his laurels he happened to rest on some other flammable herbs, indicating that perhaps his focus had shifted away from swimming.  When he got back in the water, his return was less than triumphant, too.  The media began to speculate that he was finished.

Meanwhile, Lochte spent the post-Beijing period working on becoming the new face of men’s swimming.  He changed his diet and beefed up his weight training program, with tangible results.  He beat Phelps a few times in head-to-head competitions, including last year’s World Championships.  Lochte also started to gain ground on Phelps in the duel for media exposure as he began to appear on magazine covers and to serve as an unpaid spokesman for the dental bling industry.

But at the Olympic Trials in Omaha earlier this summer, Phelps showed signs that his comeback attempt might have legs after all.  He bested Lochte in three of four events. The significance of these victories was unclear since the Trials represented only a preliminary matchup, but they at least offered the public some hope that the finale of Phelps and Lochte’s rivalry might be grand after all.  Lochte fed the beast of media hype with his prediction that the 2012 Olympics would be “his time.”

The pair first went head-to-head for hardware in the finals of the 400 Meter Individual Medley last Saturday.  Based on this contest, it looked like Lochte could add “skilled medium” to his list of accomplishments.  He raced to gold as Phelps splatted to a fourth place finish. Phelps reacted by adding a huge serving of humble pie to his 10,000 calorie per day diet.

Lochte and Phelps then joined forces on Sunday for the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay, offering Phelps his first shot at redemption. Four years earlier the U.S. men's relay team had to close a large gap in the final leg of the same race to out-touch the French.  They snagged the gold medal in world record-breaking time. In London, the tables turned. Phelps helped the U.S. team build a full body length lead, but Lochte struggled to maintain it during the anchor leg and got overtaken at the wall by…the French. Earning a silver medal in the Olympics is an impressive accomplishment by absolute standards, but for Phelps and Lochte, it was a huge joint splat.

On Tuesday, Phelps raced in the 200 fly, an event he hadn't lost in twelve years. The race came down to the finish, just as it did in 2008, when Phelps won by the narrowest of margins. But in London, he wasn’t able to produce one of his trademark finishes. He got out-touched and ended up with silver.  With this medal, his 18th, Phelps tied the record for most decorated Olympian.  Comeback-wise, though, he still hadn’t bounced off the proverbial wall.  He'd lost his signature event and a gold medal remained just out of reach.

A chance at redemption for Phelps and Lochte arrived that same night in the form of the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay. Lochte kicked off the race like the champion that he is, creating a sizeable lead that teammates Conor Dwyer and Ricky Berens maintained.  Phelps anchored for the U.S. and managed to hold off Yannick Agnel-- the same Frenchman who’d overtaken Lochte in the 4 x 100 relay—for a team gold that made history for Phelps (the first athlete to receive 19 Olympic medals) and redeemed Lochte. The addition of humble pie to Phelp’s regimen showed as he thanked his teammates for enabling his historic achievement.

The final Phelps-Locthe showdown –the 200 meter IM--took place Thursday, half an hour after Lochte swam the 200 meter backstroke.  Though favored to win the 200 back, Lochte not only failed to grab the gold but came in a splatty third.  His crystal ball was looking more and more like a snow globe as he and Phelps took the blocks for the 200 IM.  The race ended for Lochte almost as soon as it started.  After the 50 fly, Phelps built up a lead he refused to relinquish and Lochte closed out “his time” in London with a silver. Phelps may have gotten the last word in their rivalry (along with his third straight Olympic gold medal in the same event) but Lochte’s story is far from over.  We’ll see him, and perhaps his precious metal-enhanced smile, again in 2016. 

Phelps still has a couple more lines to write in this chapter, but with 20 medals to his credit as of today—16 of them gold--we at Splatospheric think it’s safe to say he cleans up well.   (Saturday morning update: We're definitely safe to say that. Phelps came out of 7th place to win the 100M fly yesterday, winning it three times in three straight Olympics.  With that victory he nabbed his second three-peat, his 21st medal overall and his 17th gold,.)

So step on up and grab your golden pancake, boys. We’re sure you’re hungry.


  1. You. Are. Hysterical! I love this!

    1. Why thank you. It helps that some of this material practically writes itself!