Ryan Lochte dethroned two-time champion Michael Phelps to win the 400-meter individual medley on the first night of swimming at the London Olympics.
Phelps finished fourth, the first time he hasn’t won a medal in an Olympic race since 2000.
Lochte, a 27-year-old American, won the first final at the Aquatics Centre in 4 minutes, 5.18 seconds. The event includes 100 meters each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Lochte had led from the start.
Among those in the crowd was Michelle Obama, the wife of the U.S. president.
Phelps, Lochte’s friend and teammate, had been trying to become the first man to win the same individual event at three straight games. The winner of a record 14 gold medals, Phelps finished fourth after barely qualifying for the last spot in the final. Thiago Perreira of Brazil took the silver and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino the bronze.
The only other time Phelps walked away from an Olympic final empty-handed was in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2000 Sydney Games, when he finished fifth as a 15-year-old. Phelps will retire after the London Olympics.
Although Lochte won two gold medals in Beijing in 2008, he’d been overshadowed by Phelps, who became the only person to win eight golds at a single games. Lochte is 11 months older than his teammate.
The tables turned after Beijing, as Lochte won 15 gold medals at the following three world championships. Lochte, who took bronze in the 400 individual medley in Beijing, won the event at the 2009 and 2011 world championships. At last month’s U.S. swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, he beat Phelps in the event in a personal best of 4:07.06.
Lochte made the Olympic final in London with a time of 4:12.35 in the heats early today.
Phelps had qualified in 4:13.33. He won the 400 individual medley in Beijing in a world record of 4:03.84.
There are four medal events today at the Aquatics Centre. The medley is followed by the men’s 400-meter freestyle, the women’s 400-meter individual medley and the women’s 400-meter freestyle relay.