The men's 200-meter backstroke was Ryan Lochte's undercard on the day, with Tyler Clary seemingly posing less of a threat to Lochte than Michael Phelps did in the 200 IM. But while Lochte led throughout the race, it was Clary who surged at the end to snag his first gold medal and set a Olympic record.
Lochte was first after 150 meters, and led after both 50 meters and 100 meters, too. His third leg, though, was merely very good, at 29.18, and Clary made up time toward the end of it. Clary then took the lead early on in the final leg, and closed with a blistering 28.48, setting a new Olympic mark at 1:53.41. Ryosuke Irie of Japan won silver, and Lochte took bronze.
For Clary, the win represents something of a breakthrough. His Twitter bio shows as much ("Two Time World Championship Silver and Bronze Medalist. Triple Silver Medalist at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships"). But he's got something shinier now:
Ever see an Olympic gold medal up close?? twitter.com/TylerClary/sta… — Scott Tyler Clary (@TylerClary) August 2, 2012
And, no, it doesn't seem that the 22-year-old Clary will be satisfied with one gold medal. "I'm on Cloud 9 right now and I want more of this," Clary said.
Lochte, on the other hand, has to deal with the fact that he let another gold slip away with a late fade. He also ran out of gas in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay, getting hawked down by France's Yannick Agnel.
Lochte's bronze-winning time of 1:53.94 wasn't a career best, either. And it wasn't even really all that close -- Lochte has previously held the world record in the event, and smoked the field at the 2011 IAAF World Championships with a time of 1:52.96, beating Irie by more than a second and Clary by nearly two.
The bronze tied Lochte with fellow U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt for the most medals by an Olympian in London, but he couldn't dwell on it, either. His next race, that 200 IM showdown with Phelps, was little more than a half-hour later, and would serve as his second shot at Phelps and last shot at a medal of 2012.