Ryan Lochte crushed the field in the men’s 400 individual medley to claim the first gold in what many expect will be another massive medal haul for the United States swimming teams at the London Games.
But while Lochte’s victory was celebrating his dominant performance, two-time defending champion Michael Phelps was left scratching his head after he failed to reach the podium.
Lochte pulled away during the backstroke and cruised to the finish in a time of 4 minutes, 5.18 seconds. Phelps, slotted in lane 8 after he posted the slowest qualifying heat time of the eight finalists, faded down the stretch and finished fourth in 4:09.28.
“It’s just really frustrating to start off on a bad note like this,” Phelps said. “It’s pretty upsetting. I think the biggest thing now is just to get past this and move forward.”
Missy Franklin’s bid to win seven medals got of to a solid start as she helped the U.S. win bronze in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Australia won gold in an Olympic record 3:33.15. The Netherlands (3:33.79) took silver. The American team of the 17-year-old Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt finished in 3:34.24.
Shortly after Lochte’s win, American Peter Vanderkaay added to the men’s medal count when he took bronze in the 400 freestyle in a time of 3:44.69; he finished behind China’s Sun Yang (3:40.14, an Olympic record) and Park Tae-Hwan (3:42.06).
Elizabeth Beisel added a silver medal in the women’s 400 IM in 4:31.27. China’s Ye Shiwen won in world record time, 4:28.43.