In the swimming world, 2012 was a year full of surprises. The Olympic Games always bring tons of excitement and lots of anticipation. With that anticipation comes much build-up, and perhaps the most surprising swimming event of 2012 happened months before the Games began.
In April, 2011 100-meter breaststroke world champion Alexander Dale Oen was discovered dead in his hotel room in Flagstaff, Ariz. Dale Oen, 26, had been in the United States on a training trip with his Norwegian teammates when he was found. It was later discovered that Dale Oen died from a heart attack caused by coronary heart disease.
With Dale Oen in the hearts of many, the 2012 Olympic Games opened to much fanfare. There were several highly anticipated races, and few looked forward to any race more than the men’s 400-meter individual medley. The event featured some of the biggest names in the swimming world, including Michael Phelps, the defending Olympic champion and world record holder, and Ryan Lochte, his American teammate and the defending world champion.
Each swimmer had the background and experience to pull out a win at the Olympic Games, and it just seemed to be a question of which swimmer — Lochte or Phelps –would take home gold and which swimmer would take home silver. Imagine the surprise of many when Lochte touched the wall first and Phelps touched the wall fourth. Fourth? It was the first time Phelps hadn’t medaled in an Olympic event since 2000, when he was just 15 years old. Phelps fourth-place finish was perhaps the most surprising swimming result of 2012.
Equally surprising, perhaps, was the second place finish of American swimmer Rebecca Soni in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. In the years leading into the 2012 Games, Soni had become one of the most dominant breaststroke swimmers in the world, so when she was defeated by 15-year-old Lithuanian swimmer Ruta Meilutyte, a virtually unknown swimmer, it was difficult for many to believe — including Meilutyte herself.
South African swimmer Chad le Clos provided swimming fans with another surprising and exciting moment when he bested Phelps in the men’s 200-meter butterfly. Heading into the wall, it looked as if Phelps might have had enough left to hold of le Clos and become the first man in history to win an event at three consecutive Olympic Games. Instead, le Clos surged to the wall first and out-touched Phelps by five-hundredths of a second to win gold.
Without surprises, the Olympic Games wouldn’t be nearly as exciting to watch. Not only do surprise outcomes provide inspiration for fans and swimmers around the world, but the outcomes also help to keep hope alive for the underdog.
What did you think were the biggest swimming surprises of 2012?
Read more from this author: World Champion Swimmer Alexander Dale Oen Found Dead in Flagstaff
Sandra Johnson was a competitive swimmer for more than 15 years before she began coaching. She is a longtime Olympic fan, and while working for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46