LONDON (July 28, 2012) — American Micheal Phelps, 27, hoping to be the first male swimmer to win the 400-meter individual medley in three consecutive Olympics, found himself fighting just to make the qualifiers.
However, in the end, it was American swimmer, 27, who beat Phelps in the last tournaments leading up to the Olympics, turned the dual between the two American swimmers in the finals into a rout.
Lochte beat Phelps by three seconds, pulling away from him with the other top two swimmers to win the gold medal.
Phelps, who found himself fighting to make the cut today in the 400-meter individual medley trials this morning, wasn’t good enough to find a spot on the podium. The 400-meter individual medley is considered the toughest swimming competition of the Olympics, and sets the tone for the next 17 days.
Brazil'stook the silver, and Japan's Kosuke Hagino claimed the bronze. Phelps failed to make the podium, finishing in fourth place by 34-hundredths of a second.
In the mdeal round, Phelps struggled in his fourth-place finish, and could barely pull himself out of the pool afterwards. He was denied his 17th career medal, and his 3rd consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley.
There have been questions raised by the media whether Phelps had what it takes to beat his American rival, let alone the rest of the field. And his performance this morning may indicate trouble ahead for Phelps.
“A final spot is a final spot," Phelps told reporters after finishing his qualifying round in 8th place overall. "The only thing that matters is getting a spot in. You can't win a gold medal from the morning."
However, he very nearly lost that spot to Hungary's Lazlo Cseh, who in the last two Olympics won the bronze in 2004 and the silver in 2008.
Seven other swimmers had better times than Phelps, and that has been an issue that has plagued Phelps as of late.
In a televised interview with Bob Costas Friday night during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, Phelps seemed very tentative when asked several times about his chance of breaking the all-time gold medal record.
Phelps floundered in the Pan Pacific games, where his coach Bob Bowman said that Phelps' performance was not of Olympic quality, and said if he swam that way in London, he predicted that it's likely Phelps would not win any medals.
Phelps told Costas that there where many little things that he did wrong, such as tightening his strokes and making better turns. Phelps told Costas that he felt confident that most of little things that he has been working with his coach have been corrected.
However, when Costas asked directly if he was able to fix all these problems, Phelps dodged he question with a "let's see what happens at the end" answer to the question. This morning's eighth place finish and failing miserably to make the podium on looks like Phelps may still have issues to work out.
In Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, Phelps won gold in the 400-meter individual medley, and in other tournaments, he has won at least two other gold medals in the same race.
However, this would be the last time he won at the 400-meter individual medley.
In the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships, Phelps failed to qualify for the finals, and Lochte won the gold medal.
And again in the 2011 World Championships, Phelps decided to swim the 200-meter individual medley, only to finish second behind Lochte. Then in the Olympic trials, Lochte beat Phelps for the top spot.
However, with a field of fast swimmers who have shown they can beat Phelps, Lochte dearly wanted to be the one to beat him tonight. He did.