American Ryan Lochte won the first gold swimming medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Saturday evening, posting a stunning time of 4:05.18 in the men’s 400m individual medley.
“For four years I’ve been training hard. This is just my first event so I’m really happy,” Lochte said.
“I’m ready to rock this Olympics.”
But the real surprise of night came from teammate Michael Phelps. The two-time reigning Olympic title holder in the event finished fourth.
“I’m a bit frustrated, I’m not feeling that great. I just want to put this race behind me and move on,” Phelps said after posting 4:09.28. Where Lochte finished nearly two seconds faster than his time at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, Phelps finished more than a second and a half slower.
Lochte said he felt for his teammate.
“He gave it all he got. I’m going to go and talk to him in the dressing room,” Lochte said.
Phelps swam in lane eight but said his position was not the reason he did not reach the podium.
“I was lucky (to get into the final.) The lane draw had nothing to do with me coming in fourth place, it was just a crappy race,” Phelps said.
Saturday marked the first time in 12 years that Phelps failed to earn a medal in an Olympic final. A 14-time Olympic champion and 16-time Olympic medalist, the last time Phelps finished off the podium was at Sydney 2000. He was 15 at the time.
Already the record-holder for most gold medals won at a single Games (eight at Beijing 2008), Phelps is aiming to become the all-time most decorated Olympian in London. Scheduled to swim in a total of seven events, he needs just two medals to tie the current record of 16.
Questions of Phelps’s work ethic arose earlier this week when teammate Tyler Clary was quoted in a California newspaper saying he saw “a lack of preparation (in Phelps).” Clary has since apologized to Phelps about the comment.
“I honestly don’t think it was a fitness issue. I thought he was in a good place mentally,” Bob Bowman said.
Lochte grabbed a stranglehold on the lead within the first 100-metres of Saturday’s final. For much of the race it looked looked as if he might catch Phelps’s world record, set at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Brazil’s Thiago Pereira finished a distant second in 4:08.86 while Kosuke Hagino, of Japan, was third in 4:08.94.
Hagino, 17, beat his own Asian and Japanese record of 4:10.26.