LONDON -- Ryan Lochte made sure his first showdown with Michael Phelps was no showdown at all.
Perhaps more like a coronation.
Lochte, the mellow Florida Gator by way of New York, breezed to the gold medal in the men's 400-meter individual medley Saturday night at the Aquatics Centre, winning in a time of 4 minutes and 5.18 seconds, more than three seconds ahead of silver medalist Thiago Pereira of Brazil.
Lochte was the favorite, but no one expected it to be anticlimactic.
"I'm happy I was able to do that,'' said Lochte, who took a victory lap (walking, not swimming) around the pool after the race with the other medalists. "I heard the fans screaming all through the race, had my family right there. It definitely helped me a lot."
As for Phelps, the 16-time swimming medalist, it was a shockingly unfamiliar outcome, particularly in an event he dominated for so long: he left the pool with nothing but frustration and a fourth-place finish.
"Just a crappy race,'' said Phelps, who was the first swimmer out of the water after the event while Lochte accepted congratulations from other competitors. "It was frustrating. They swam a better race than me, a smarter race, and were more prepared. That's why they're on the medal stand."
Phelps fell short in his bid to become the first male swimmer to win a specific individual event in three consecutive Olympics, finishing .34 seconds behind bronze medalist Kosuke Hagino of Japan in a time of 4:09.28. Pereira and Hagino both caught Phelps during the freestyle.
It is the first time Phelps has not medaled in an Olympic event he competed in since he finished fifth in the 200 fly as a 15-year-old in the 2000 Summer Games.
Lochte, the world champion in the 400 IM who beat Phelps by approximately half a body length at the Olympic Trials, is the world champion, while Phelps is still the world-record holder, which he set in Beijing four years ago. Lochte was on a pace to break Phelps's world record for much of the race, but his pace slowed during the freestyles.
Lochte said he thought Phelps, who never much enjoyed the 400 IM despite his dominance, gave it all he could.
"That's all you can really ask for,'' he said. I'm going to go talk to him, see how he felt."
Perhaps there was a harbinger in the morning heats when Phelps was the eighth and final swimmer to qualify for the finals. He wound up in a disadvantageous outside lane while Lochte was near the middle in the third lane, where he led at every split and essentially had Phelps defeated after the fly leg of the race given that the backstroke, the third leg of the race, is Phelps's weakest discipline.
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Round One goes to Ryan Lochte.
Lochte cruises to the gold medal with an unofficial time of 4:03.84.
Michael Phelps is fourth -- and misses out on his 17th medal -- at 4:09.28, .34 behind bronze medalist Kosuke Hagino of Japan.
Thiago Pereira of Brazil takes the silver.
Last 100 I sat hose guys out there. They swam a better race than me. They swam a smarter race than me. They were more prepared."
We'll be back with more shortly.
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Lochte still leads after the butterfly.
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Lochte touches the wall in the lead at 1 minute 56:23 seconds after the backstroke.
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According to the media information provided by Atos, the event about to get underway here at the Aquatics Center is called the 400 meter Individual Medley. But let's not be so formal, since the chief and long-anticipated story line is at the center of tonight's event: The first of two showdowns during the London Games between US swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Phelps, who owns 14 golds and two bronzes during his Olympic career, is two medals away from tying for the most in history. He'd love to get one tonight against Lochte, his friendly rival who
The drama nearly ended before it really began. Phelps, who is trying to become the first male swimmer to win a single individual event in three consecutive Olympics, barely qualified for the final during Saturday morning's preliminaries. He won his heat wit ha time of 4 minutes 13.33 seconds, which put him in the eighth spot.
Lochte, who beat Phelps in the 400 at the Olympic trials, qualified third (4:12.35). He could have a relevant advantage over Phelps -- he will swim in the middle of the pool in the third lane, while Phelps has a less-desirable outside spot.
The in-house monitor is showing footage of Phelps and Lochte pacing in a hallway with their game-faces (and in Phelps's case, headphones and robe) on, so we're just a few minutes from getting going here. Stick around for updates.