Olympic swimming: Ryan Lochte leaves Michael Phelps far behind in the pool
Phelps still has six more events to swim in London, plenty of time to make up for his dismal start. He remains two behind the most medals won by any Olympian — Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's mark of 18 — nine gold, five silver, four bronze.
Phelps put himself in position to swim another eight events with his performance at the U.S. trials, but he decided to drop the 200-meter freestyle, feeling one less race would give his body a better chance to recover and improve his performance in the other events.
Now, he may be regretting that decision.
The 400 IM was an event he has dominated, winning gold at the last two Olympics and holding the world record for a full decade. But, tired of putting his body through such a grind, he dropped it from his program after setting a world record in Beijing four years ago (4:03.84), vowing never to swim it again.
He should have stuck with that pledge. Clearly, Phelps didn't leave himself enough time to get back in the kind of shape he needed to win the brutal race, having only brought it back earlier this year.
"I was lucky to get in," he said, referring to his slow time in the morning. "I had a chance to put myself in a spot to start off on a good note and didn't do it."
Lochte gave the Americans their first gold medal of the London Games and put himself in position to fulfill the promise he showed at last year's world championships, where he won five golds and beat Phelps in their two head-to-head meetings.
The friendly rivals have one more showdown in London, in the 200 individual medley. Phelps edged Lochte in that race during the U.S. Olympics trials, but Lochte appears to be on top of his game when it really counts.
They might be working together on Sunday, when both are in the mix to compete for the U.S. in the 4x100 free relay.
There appear to be no hard feelings.
"Congrats to (at)RyanLochte," Phelps tweeted afterward. "Way to keep that title in the country where it belongs!!"
"Thanks," Lochte replied: "I couldn't do it without you."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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