If the morning heats for the 400 meters individual medley were any indication, than the fact that Michael Phelps missed out on a medal for the first time in an Olympic race since Sydney 2000 while Ryan Lochte won his first of many gold medals in the London Olympics games came as no surprise.

Phelps’ terrible morning placed him in lane 8 for the 400 IM final while Lochte got the comfortable lane 3. Still, it’s hard to count out the man who has won more Olympic gold medals than any other athlete in history. But I guess things don’t suddenly change and swimmers conjures amazing performances out of thin air. Phelps looked slow and tired, barely making it into the final. He didn’t look much different in the final.

Ryan Lochte grabbed the race by the jugular from the first moment, leading the race after the first 100 meters which were in the butterfly style. If Phelps couldn’t create some sort of lead for himself in the fly, finishing the first 100 at second, and then fading away in the backstroke and breaststroke while Kosuke Hagino from Japan and Thiago Pereira from Brazil took over the battle for Silver and Bronze.

Ryan Lochte? He was battling himself, and history, eventually finishing with a 4:05.18, slowing down in the freestyle leg, losing the fantastic, world record kind of pace he built during the first 300 meters of the swim. Michael Phelps missed out on a medal, but his world record (4:03.84) from Beijing remained well out of reach.

How good is Lochte in comparison with the rest at the moment? Thiago Pereira, who won the silver medal, his first Olympic medal, finished more than 3 second behind. Hagino, with the Bronze, his first as well, set a new Asian record with 4:08.94. It’s now a question of how big these games will be for Lochte, winning his fourth Olympic gold medal, and if he’ll be able to set a world record over the next few days. Suddenly, for Phelps, it’s a question if he has enough to even win another gold medal before the curtain comes down on his incredible career.

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