Omaha, Nebraska. Ryan Lochte downed Michael Phelps in the men’s 400m medley at the US Olympic swimming trials on Monday in a race that offered a glimpse of what their rivalry could produce at the London Games.
Lochte seized control on the breaststroke leg of the punishing four-stroke event and held off Phelps in the closing freestyle to win in 4min 7.06sec.
Phelps, the world record-holder and two-time Olympic champion, was second, booking an Olympic berth in 4:07.89.
Tyler Clary, the World Championships silver medalist behind Lochte in Shanghai last year as Phelps opted out of the event, was the odd man out, finishing third in 4:09.92. Only the top two finishes in each event in the eight-day meeting make the Olympic team.
After making the 400m medley one of his eight triumphs in Beijing, Phelps vowed he wouldn’t swim it again in major international competition.
“There was a lot of discussion about me doing it,” Phelps said.
“The thing it came down to — I wanted to do it. This is an event I’ve done for a long time and I want to finish off my career doing it.”
No male swimmer has ever won the same Olympic event at three straight Games. The 400m medley will give Phelps a chance to become the first on the first night of competition at the London Aquatics Center — although his fiercest competition is likely to come from team-mate Lochte.
Lochte, Phelps and Clary were all faster than the previous fastest time in the world this year, the 4:10.26 by Japan’s Kosuke Hagino.