London 2012: Ryan Lochte Takes U.S. First Olympic Gold, Beats Michael Phelps

It’s safe to say Michael Phelps’ last stint in the Olympics is not going as smoothly as he had hoped thus far.

Ryan Lochte on his way to victory in the men’s 400m medley final at the London 2012 Olympics. Photo: JD Lasica/Flickr

American Ryan Lochte turned his much-anticipated duel with Michael Phelps into a blowout, pulling away to win the Olympic 400-meter individual medley by more than 3 seconds for the first U.S. gold medal in London.

Lochte dominated the race, winning by more than three seconds, to take home the gold.

“I think I’m kind of in shock right now,” Lochte told NBC. “I know [Phelps] gave it everything he had. That’s all you can ask for.”

According to Guardian, after the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps promised never again to compete in the 400m individual medley. Later, however, he changed his mind, though he has never explained why, saying: “I’ll give you the honest answer when I’m done.”

“It was just a crappy race,” Phelps told NBC. “I felt fine the first 200, then I don’t know. They just swam a better race than me, a smarter race than me, and were better prepared than me. That’s why they’re on the medal stand.”

“It’s frustrating, that’s all I can say. It’s pretty upsetting,” Phelps went on. “The biggest thing now is to try to look forward. I have a bunch of other races, and hopefully we can finish a lot better than how we started.”

Brazil’s Thiago Pereira took the silver, and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino claimed the bronze – beating Phelps by a fairly comfortable 34-hundredths of a second for the last spot on the podium.

E! Online writes that this was the first time since the 2000 Olympics that Phelps didn’t win at least a bronze medal in an Olympic race.

Lochte, like Phelps, will bid for seven golds in the Aquatics Centre these Games. For only one of them is that now a possibility.

“I don’t really have any enemies, so I can’t really say he’s my enemy,” Lochte said recently when asked about Phelps. “He’s my competitor. No matter, win or lose, after the race we’re still going to be friends.”

Phelps, who has already 16 Olympic medals, was trying to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three straight Olympics.

All is not lost though for the famed athlete, who still has three more chances to accomplish that feat before the Olympics ends at the 200-meter individual medley, and the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly match-ups.

Phelps is well known for being happier to think of the relationship in uncomplicatedly competitive terms. The well-liked Lochte has declared himself “friends with everyone”, saying: “Even before a race, I’ll talk to anyone on the pool deck – sometimes they don’t speak English, so I guess I’m really just talking to myself.”

In contrast, Phelps, whose manner can at times be as awkward as his gangly frame out of water, says of himself: “I’ve always been a person to let my swimming do the talking.”

In the athletes’ village in London, the two men share a six-bedroom suite with other members of the US swimming squad, even teaming up to play cards in the evenings. Phelps has the only single room.

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