With four days of the Olympic Games now having passed, arguably the biggest shocks have taken place in the pool, where, among other things, we have witnessed Ryan Lochte casting the great Michael Phelps aside in the men’s 400m individual medley (IM), and 16-year-old Ye Shiwen of China smashing world and Olympic records, and her opponents, raising the eyebrows (and suspicions) of the sporting world.
Meanwhile, America’s Missy Franklin, herself only 17-years-old, picked up a gold medal in the 100m backstroke. An incredible feat for two reasons – the first being her age – Franklin had only 15 minutes prior to this been swimming to qualify for the final of the 200m freestyle. Tonight, meanwhile, Phelps bids to become the greatest Olympian of all time.
In modern sport, brilliance arises suspicion, particularly in the Olympic Games. During the 1990s China had a reputation as a country willing to operate outside the laws of fair sporting competition, and a number of the country’s athletes tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. In the wake of Ye Shiwen’s exceptional efforts, which saw her break her own personal best time by five seconds, and featured a faster final 50m than that of Ryan Lochte, American coach John Leonard described the swimmer’s achievement as “disturbing”. His words essentially constituted an indirect, but not very, accusation of drug usage.
Leonard’s comments have quickly been quashed by representatives of the “Olympic family”, including former swimmer Adrian Moorhouse and chairman of the British Olympic Association, Lord Colin Moynihan. Moorhouse said: “The Chinese might have just found this really talented kid, who can work really hard, has the perfect shape and can cope with all the pressure thrown at her.”
Alongside the revalation that both of Shiwen’s tests from Saturday, which look for evidence of performance enhancing drug use, came back clean, Moynihan added: “History in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, unbelievable, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved.”
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has publicly distanced itself from Leonard’s comments, and attempts are being made to repair the “rift” the coach’s words have caused with the Chinese representatives. It appears, however, as though Shiwen’s gold will stand and the Chinese look set to continue to comfortably lead the London 2012 Olympic Games medal table.
Following on from his destruction of the field in the men’s 400m IM, Lochte can now aid Phelps in the latter’s pursuit for his final, crowning career glory. The American swimming legend is looking to become the all-time highest medal winner at the Olympics. No mean feat, this, in order to do so he must reach the podium in both the 200m butterfly and the 800m freestyle relay, the latter of which will feature Lochte. When the 27-year-old, inventively nicknamed the “Lochenator”, cast Phelps aside the other night, he appeared on the podium wearing a teeth covering with a US flag and the word “champion” on it. Perhaps he may want to pass that to Phelps if the “Baltimore Bullet” scores a direct hit in the pool tonight.
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