London: Ryan Lochte won the 400m medley gold on Saturday as Olympic superstar Michael Phelps was shut out of the medals in the first swimming final of the London Games.
The race was expected to be a duel between 14-time Olympic gold medallist Phelps and Lochte -- who settled for bronze in the event four years ago in Beijing -- as Phelps made it one of his eight golds.
Instead it was Lochte who won in 4min 05.18sec, comfortably in front of Brazilian Thiago Pereira in 4:08.86 with Japan`s Kosuke Hagino claiming bronze with an Asian record of 4:08.94.
"I think I am in shock right now," Lochte said. "Going into these Games I knew I was capable of getting the win. I`m happy that I was able to do that."
Phelps was fourth in 4:09.28 -- the first time since he was a 15-year-old at his first Olympics in Sydney that he failed to medal in an Olympic final. He was fifth in the 200m fly in Sydney.
In the interim, Phelps had won six gold and two bronze in Athens, and of course his vaunted eight golds in eight events in Beijing.
"It was just a crappy race," Phelps said. "I felt fine the first 200 and then I couldn`t really go the last 100.
"They swam a better race than me, they swam a smarter race than me and that is why they are on the podium," he added.
Phelps was in trouble from the time he barely scraped into the final, putting himself in the unfavorable outside lane eight. He had never been seeded lower than fourth in an Olympic final.
"I was lucky to get into the final," Phelps admitted. "After the heat I figured I`d be fourth or fifth."
He never led, and once Lochte had gained the lead from South African Chad le Clos by the end of the opening butterfly leg, the race appeared to be his to lose.
Phelps had moved into second at the end of the butterfly, and held onto it during the backstroke leg, but as Lochte began to extend his lead Phelps was locked in a battle with Pereira and Hagino that he was destined to lose.
"It`s just really frustrating to start off on a bad note like this," said Phelps, who is slated to swim seven events. "It`s pretty upsetting.
The flop denied Phelps in his first bid to become the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Olympics. He`ll have a chance at trebles in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m medley, but Japanese breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima also has two shots at the achievement.
"The biggest thing now is to try and get past this and move forward," Phelps said. "I have a bunch of races and hopefully we can finish this a lot better than we started.
BDST: 1549 HRS, July 29, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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