Ryan Lochte ended Michael Phelps’ reign in the Olympic 400m individual medley on the first full day of Olympic competition. The American pulled away in the race, winning by a wide margin and taking home America’s first Gold of the London games.
Phelps finished outside of the medals, placing fourth behind Brazilian Thiago Pereira and Kosuke Hagino of Japan.
Phelps, who was trying for an unprecedented third straight gold in the event, had struggled earlier in the day, just qualifying for the finals of the event by .07 seconds when he narrowly won his slow heat.
There may be some doubts about Phelps’ readiness, as he told SI’s Tim Layden immediately following the race that his opponents were better prepared than him. His performance certainly showed that. Had Phelps swam the time he posted in the US Trials just three weeks ago, he would have nabbed silver.
The victory for Lochte isn’t much of a surprise considering he’s the two-time defending World Champion in the event and the current world record holder.
Trouble for Phelps was apparent when he conceded the lead to Lochte at the conclusion of the 100m butterfly, the first stroke. Lochte, the former Florida Gator swimmer, then solidified a lead he wouldn’t give up in his strongest leg, the backstroke. After that, the remaining drama was about whether Lochte would claim the world record. He was on pace with about 50m remaining, but he faded at the end, not getting the benefit of the high-tech speed suits that are no longer used in swimming.
Phelps still has six events left to swim in the meet and Lochte has four. These two will team up for relays, but you have to wonder how this will effect Phelps and his preparations for the rest of the races.